If we really want to support children’s early learning, we should make the school starting age older


Thank heaven for some sound sense on early learning at last, from doctors Sally Goddard Blythe and Audrey Boucher (“Here’s why we need to revamp early years learning,” Letters).

Goddard Blythe is absolutely right to question the impact of ICT on children’s early learning and development. Whatever the conscious and well-meaning intention, these addictive “technologies of instantaneity” always and invariably substitute for, and displace, the wonderful messiness of real human relationship – young children’s essential learning-ground for becoming human.

If you want to see the massive damage that these technologies are doing to children’s learning experience, the new book Screen Schooled by Joe Clement and Matt Miles should be a wakeup call to all educationalists and policy-makers – if not the education industrial complex, and their vested commercial interest in aggressively pushing these dubious and damaging technologies.

But the elephant in the room that no one from any political party apparently dares to mention is England’s unconscionably early school starting age (SSA). Boucher gets close to it when she writes that not all children are ready to learn reading at a young age, and there’s the very real risk that they’ll feel a failure from the outset.

The vast majority of the world’s countries have a SSA of six or seven; yet due to a combination of historical anachronism (the 1871 Education Act) and an economy-driven discourse dominating policy-making, England has an effective SSA of four. This creates systemic pressures to shoehorn young children into quasi-formal learning far earlier than is developmentally appropriate, with the danger of lifelong negative health effects (the US longevity project findings).

Children are often unable to meet the demands of the system when they start school because they’re being thrust into institutional schooling far too soon – not because there’s something wrong with them, or because they’re “developmentally delayed”. And it’s nothing short of criminal that young children are being so labelled because of the system that our politically correct SSA is perpetrating.

Dr Richard House, chartered psychologist

The same opportunities

Naomi Firsht seems clear in her determination to exit Europe (Voices). As she states on her website that she lived and worked in Paris for five years, perhaps I can ask her not to pull this ladder up behind her. My daughters will be unable to make the same choice as easily after March 2019 due to her vote.

Jane Pickard

People are allowed to change their minds – and should be supported to do so

Am I alone in being fed up with the argument that a second referendum seeks to “overturn” the 2016 vote, or that it would “betray” those who voted Leave? (Naomi Firsht for Voices).

That is an extraordinarily egocentric view of democracy, and misrepresents the very nature of voting. It is merely a reaction based on fear of not getting what you want if it turns out you are now in the minority.

In a mature democracy people must be allowed to change their minds as new information comes to light (and there has been plenty of that).

I imagine very few who voted to leave the EU are actually getting what they had hoped for. Why would those people not want to think again? And why should they not be allowed to?

Andrew Fozard
Address supplied

The purpose of the EU

In her letter, Jane Valentine proposes that focus is put on EU benefits and that the proceedings of our elected representatives in the EU are more widely publicised. I agree.

However, before that, perhaps the nation can be educated on the purpose and scope of the EU.

In conversations with many Leave voters I have been shocked to find how little some know about the EU and also how much they exaggerate that which the EU is responsible for. I have seen it castigated for allowing our pension ages to be increased to age 67 and for not defending Catalan separatists. I have seen it believed that the EU controls our tax rates and what crops farmers may grow. I have seen it stated that the EU prevents our UK companies selling goods or services to the rest of the world.

This is a shocking state of affairs and reflects badly on our media. Perhaps now is the time to explain what the EU actually is and does.

Nick Haward

I write to express my total support for the views on Brexit set out in Valentine’s letter published yesterday.

Steve Hills
Milton Keynes

The EU deal is no longer what we signed up for

I see the return of the scaremongering again from the Remoaners. Get a life. Let’s get on with leaving the EU and save ourselves wasting money year on year – do business with those who want our custom. The EU is no longer the pact we originally signed up to when it was just seven member states. They won’t listen to country’s concerns or be flexible on issues. One peg doesn’t fit all.

T Sayer

3D printed guns might not be banned in the US for long

How long will it be before the NRA and their supporters find wording in the second amendment that gives American citizens the right to own and make guns with 3D printers?

G Forward

Lessons we can learn from Alan Alda

Like many I was saddened to hear that Alan Alda has Parkinson’s disease.

“I thought, it’s probably only a matter of time before somebody does a story about this from a sad point of view, but that’s not where I am,” he said. In times of illness and passing we should consider the theme of his message and concentrate on the positives in life.

Most will know him for his acting in M*A*S*H* as a brilliant, troublemaking doctor, although his role in West Wing as a potential president is well worth watching. His real brilliance is however as a story teller and his contributions to science in his role at the Alan Alda Centre for Communicating Science.

There are many that can tell a story well but few tell stories of importance so well. Science is better off because of him as there is a need for clear communication in a world of fake news and fake science – climate change deniers and anti-vaccination falsehoods. Keep telling the world about science as I and many others will keep listening.

Dennis Fitzgerald

The Independent has launched its #FinalSay campaign to demand that voters are given a voice on the final Brexit deal.

Sign our petition here



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