The age at which children start school varies across the world. In Sweden, Denmark and Finland formal education starts at age seven, while in the UK, children often start as young as four. This raises ongoing questions over school readiness and whether British children are sufficiently emotionally, socially and physically developed to start school.
Many children will have attended some degree of nursery education prior to starting school in the UK, thanks to the roll out of free nursery places for three-year-olds (and two-year-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds). Physical development is now one core component of the Early Years Foundation Stage Framework, the equivalent of the national curriculum for three- to five-year-olds.
A child who is physically well-developed – able to perform fine and gross motor skills appropriate to their age – is more able to sit up straight, sit still, pay attention and has the fine motor control necessary for holding a pencil and writing.
But our ongoing research indicates that many children are not physically equipped to cope with school life, and their lack of readiness could be affecting their ability to learn.
In September 2015, my colleague Pat Preedy and I assessed 46 children who had just started at two schools (ten from an independent school and 36 from a state school) across a series of tests. This included the Movement ABC, a standardised set of tests often used to establish movement difficulties.
Within this sample, we found that just under a third of the children were starting school with movement difficulties which could affect their learning and behaviour. Of the children in our sample, 21% had significant movement difficulty. For another 8%, their physical development was below what might be expected for their age, meaning they may be at risk of developing future coordination problems.
What is the GetAMoveOn Network+ ? The GetAMoveOn Network+ is an interdisciplinary community of researchers and practitioners, funded by an EPSRC grant running from June 2016 to the end of May 2021. Aim Our aim is to transform health by enabling people to lead more active lives with the help of …