December 8, 2008 / 1:41 PM / 10 years ago

UK children should start school earlier: report

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Children should start school earlier and be taught broader areas of learning than single subjects like maths and English, a British review recommended on Monday.

School children peer over a wall for a glimpse of a Northern Bottle-nosed Whale in the river Thames near Battersea Bridge in south London January 20, 2006. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

They should start formal education in the September following their fourth birthday to improve their chances of academic success, the ruling Labor party government-ordered review said.

At present, British children do not have to start until after their fifth birthday, although many primary schools already run reception classes for younger pupils.

The review, led by former deputy chief inspector of schools Jim Rose, said the change would help children born in August who tend to do less well in national tests than those born in the autumn.

It also recommended replacing the current three core subjects of English, maths and science with six broader areas of learning to put more focus on personal development.

The new learning “areas” would be Understanding English, Communication and Languages; Mathematical Understanding; Scientific and Technological Understanding; Human, Social and Environmental Understanding; Understanding Physical Health and Well-being and Understanding Arts and Design.

British Schools Secretary Ed Balls commissioned the review after a leveling off of improvements in children’s attainment in national primary school tests over recent years.

“I want to create fresh momentum in our primary schools that will ensure that all children reach their potential, whatever their background,” Balls said.

The opposition Conservative party said the proposed curriculum changes would lead to children learning less and would erode standards.

“Schools in the top-performing countries in the world and the top independent schools in this country teach children hard subject knowledge not soft ‘topics,’” said Conservative Children’s Spokesman Michael Gove.

A final report will be published next spring to be followed by a consultation, with any changes starting from September 2011.

Reporting by Tim Castle; Editing by Steve Addison and Paul Casciato

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