Raise the starting age for formal education

Scottish Liberal Democrats will include in their manifesto a commitment to raise the starting age for formal schooling to 7, transforming how children learn in what is currently P1 and P2.

The longer early years phase will still be mandatory but it will focus on child development, social skills, outdoor learning, and physical and mental health.

In advance of this, the party would also immediately abolish the SNP’s controversial national testing of five-year-olds which runs contrary to a play-based education and has been heavily criticised by teachers and independent education experts.

At the forthcoming election, Scottish Liberal Democrats will ask voters to back us to put the education system first.

Scottish Liberal Democrats will introduce a truly-play based education until age 7 to give every child a flying start. By learning together through play children develop the skills needed for trickier tasks and are better prepared to shine in areas like literacy and numeracy.

The UK is almost unique in Europe in expecting children as young as 4 or 5 to begin formal schooling. By the age of 9, pupils in Finland have much higher reading levels than pupils in the UK, having started at the age of 7.

In advance of this we would also immediately abolish the national testing of four- and five-year-olds introduced by the SNP and heavily criticised by teachers. Parliament voted to halt them years ago but was ignored. The SNP claimed the support of world-leading experts for the controversial policy, only for those same experts to call it a ‘perverse misrepresentation’ of their work and conclude the tests were ‘completely useless’.

Scottish Liberal Democrats will always be the party of education. It’s time for a historical, radical, and positive change to improve our children’s future. Raising the starting age for formal schooling to 7 is an important part of our plans to make Scottish education the best again.

Scottish Liberal Democrats have been working since 2018 with Upstart Scotland to develop plans to transform how children learn in what is currently P1 and P2.

On 20 September 2018, the Scottish Parliament voted to abolish standardised assessment of P1 pupils. The vote came after the Scottish Liberal Democrats revealed that the government’s P1 testing policy had received hundreds of pages of criticism from teachers describing the tests as “cruel nonsense”, “completely useless” and “a waste of staff resources”.

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