SNP accused of ignoring party members over formal schooling age 

The proposal was backed by SNP members at the party's conference.

SNP accused of ignoring party members over formal schooling age  iStock

The SNP has been accused of ignoring its own party members on proposals to raise the formal school starting age to six years old.

Education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville, in response to a written parliamentary question, stated that the Scottish Government “does not have plans” to change the age at which children start school in Scotland within the current parliament.

It is despite SNP members having voted for the proposal to be adopted during the party’s conference in Aberdeen in October.

The move would see children entering their first year of school at a later stage in their development.

At present, kids move from nursery into schools aged four and five.

However, campaigners have argued that there should be more focus on youngsters being allowed to learn through play.

It would bring Scotland closer in line with other European nations such as Finland, where children do not begin school until they are seven-years-old.

The SNP and Scottish Government were contacted by STV News.

Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Willie Rennie submitted the written question to Somerville at Holyrood.

His party has called for a longer early years phase focused on child development, social skills outdoor learning and physical and mental health.

“The SNP government have decided to ignore both their own party members and the international evidence of what works to improve educational performance for Scotland’s children,” he said.

“The SNP conference agreed to delay the start of formal schooling, but the minister has confirmed that won’t happen. Instead, they listed measures that are already happening.”

Rennie indicated that children could lose confidence if they fall behind in schooling at an early age.

He said: “Scottish Liberal Democrats were the first party to back play-based education until age seven, giving every child a flying start as part of a mandatory kindergarten stage of education.

“The best way to close the attainment gap is not to open it in the first place. If you start a child on those tasks before their brains are developed enough, then they fall behind others in their class who were ready. They lose confidence and it has lasting impacts.

“Whilst schools are deploying play-based pedagogies, the SNP government have become increasingly belligerent in the face of policies agreed at their own conference and the Greens in government who have absolutely zero influence over what’s going on in education.”

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