Skills considered essential are:
- Being able to sit still & listen
- Being aware of other children
- Understanding the word NO and the boundaries it sets for behaviour
- Understanding the word STOP and that it might mean there is danger
- To be potty trained and go to the lavatory
- Recognising their own name
- Being able to speak to an adult and ask for help
- Being able to take off their coat and put on shoes
- To talk in sentences
- To open and enjoy a book
The head of Ofsted Sir Michael Wilshaw has said they family was a great educator and many parents were already teaching their children these skills without realising it. But some children weren’t and they were at a disadvantage when they went to school and never caught up.
He thought those who thought the early years should be about emotional development and being left to play only were failing the disadvantaged. He believed that it was middle-class prejudice, for which the most disadvantaged pay the price, to say that children were having their childhood stolen. Better off families could more easily find ways to educate their children.
He criticised the Sure Start programme for not delivering and closing the gap between rich and poor.
The Don’t Forget the Children charity said that it wasn’t healthy to be engaged in structured learning too soon and “too formal education too early is damaging in the long term” Good parents have always engaged and responded in sensitive ways to their children and that’s what makes the brain develop”.
I can see both sides. Children in Scandinavia start school later and yet are always top of the league in education. And there is good evidence that deprived kids do worse at school and in life generally.
But looking at the skill set that children should have I don’t see that as something necessarily delivered by formal education. There has to be a middle way with perhaps more emphasis on parenting skills.