Is Four Too Young To Start School?

Earlier this month, just like pretty much every other mama of a four year old here in the UK, I took my little girl to 'Big School' for the first time. No doubt, just like everyone else I held back the tears as I said good bye and then sat in the car wondering where the hell the time has gone. It seems like only a few months ago that we brought her home as a baby from the hospital. I suppose the thing that bothers me the most is that just less than a month ago, my girlie was still 3! She is a summer baby so naturally there will be September born children in her class who will by turning 5 this month, they are a whole year older than her!! That's an entire year more to develop, learn skills at Kindergarten, make friends, explore... the list goes on. Tearing her away from all her friends at nursery school who were staying on another year was just heartbreaking and she cried herself to sleep on the last day.

E is a smart little girl and her Kindergarten teach assured me that she is more than ready to go to school and perfectly capable of keeping up with the other children in her year. However, a my motherly instincts kick in I think- why should she have to keep up with children a year older than her? What about those summer born children who late bloomers? It's a well known fact that summer children tend not to do as well at school as their older peers so surely they should all be allowed to develop at their own pace?

From a selfish point of view, I will miss spending the afternoons with her, accompanying her to play dates and exploring London. Kindergarten was only until midday so we still had plenty of time to hang out together. It seems tough to send someone so young to school for 8 hours a day, five days a week, by the end of the first whole week she was exhausted and run down! Equally selfishly and from a superficial stand point, I hate putting her in a stuffy old school uniform. I loved choosing outfits for her each day that were comfy and appropriate for whatever activity we had planned and now her wardrobe has remained untouched except for at weekends! Thinking forward to the future, E will finish school at 17 and no doubt she'll probably want to head off to university with her friends so she will leave home a year earlier than some. That's a year less I get to spend with my baby and I know it's way off but the thought makes me really sad.

We're the only country in Europe to impose such a young age for compulsory schooling, with some countries such as Sweden delaying formal schooling until age 7. Research has shown that education levels in countries where children start school later are equally as good if not better than here in the UK. I've seen this first hand having had quite an international upbringing myself, my friends in Greece who would have started school at six, left school with equally if not better educated that me.

So why do we insist on educating children from such a young age in this country? Well I guess from an economic aspect it makes sense. If more children are in full time education then it creates jobs for teachers and brings in tax revenues. Also from the point of view of the mothers, who would now be free to return to work and contribute to the economy.

So far, I have to say that E seems to be really enjoying herself, she is happy, her confidence has grown tremendously in only a week and people have commented on this! She has already made friends and is very buzzy and eager to tell us everything that she has done during the day. That said If I had the choice to not send her to school and keep her in Kindergarten for an extra year then I would jump at the chance. I believe that it's awfully unfair to send summer born children to school at the same time as those almost a year older and it feels as though she's been robbed of a year in nursery school! Just a few days ago there was once again a call to increasing the compulsory schooling age which is of course no good  for E but I wonder if anything will have changed by the time Rufio (who is also a summer baby) goes to school in two years time?

What about you, do you have a summer born child and how have they coped with school so far?


  1. It depends entirely on the child! It sounds like your daughter was ready. My son wasn't. I was glad that we live in the Netherlands as here children do not begin formal learning until they are 6-7. The early years are spent learning through play with a focus on talk and language development. As a teacher and mum I feel they have got it right.

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    1. Thanks for your comment, it's great to have the opinion of someone who actually works with children! I agree completely, I don't think there's any need for formal learning until the age of 6-7. Luckily the reception class at my daughter's school seems to be something of an extended Kindergarten and she seems to be thriving there but the hours are long for someone who has just turned 4!


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