The Scottish Greens have today announced plans to move the age children start formal schooling to seven, and instead introduce a play-based kindergarten stage for the early years. Something they say will close the attainment gap and assist in a green recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Commenting, Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie said: “The poverty related attainment gap in Scotland has persisted, and the clearest way to tackle this is by tackling poverty itself. That’s why the Scottish Greens have worked to deliver pandemic relief payments and ensured all primary pupils will get free school meals.
“The SNP were wrong to introduce standardised testing for primary ones, when international studies show younger children learn through play. The Scottish Greens believe Scotland should ditch the British model of starting school at four or five and instead look to our Scandinavian cousins.
“Finland is renowned for its education system, and it is recognised that kindergarten leads to better outcomes later in a child’s school career. The Scottish Greens would introduce this system in Scotland as part of our plans for a green recovery from the pandemic.”
The Greens point to evidence from Upstart Scotland, a charity which campaigns to establish a statutory play-based ‘kindergarten stage’ for Scottish children.
The Greens and Upstart Scotland say studies show that all children younger than seven respond and develop better with play-based learning, while formal assessments in literacy and numeracy in the early years can discourage some children’s learning.
They also contend that education and child wellbeing outcomes are far higher in Finland than Scotland, which has in part been credited to their kindergarten system and primary school starting age of seven.
The Green’s announcement comes as the SNP commit to give every Scots P1 to S6 child a laptop, with an investment of £350 million.
Analysis by Grant McKenzie
It certainly seems an interesting idea from the Scottish Greens and something that I suspect will strike a chord with some voters. Scandinavian policies are in vogue for many progressives engaged on Scottish policy choices.
Interestingly, if this policy was to be adopted it would add further divergence between Scotland and the rest of the UK. The further Scotland asserts a differentiated culture and society to the rest of the UK, the more inevitable Scottish independence becomes. So it does still take on that added dimension in terms of the constitution.
I’ll be interested to see how well this policy plays in debates. I think it might do well. I think that after 14 years of SNP-led education policy that there may just be an appetite among voters to try something different, but crucially something that is still well established in neighbouring countries.