When to start school?

When to start school?

An important decision, with many options

As infant teachers, we hear it all the time! ‘They grow so fast…I can’t believe they are going to school’ ‘I’m just not sure they’re ready…they’re so young’.   It always seems a puzzle to me, therefore, why there is such a sense of urgency for children to move into a formalised school setting at the age of 4 and a half or even 5.   This is becoming a particularly interesting debate as increasingly research is showing us that young children; are experiencing challenges to their mental health, they are increasingly experiencing issues around anxiety and lack of resilience and frequently display other challenging behaviours which are often a result of the frustrations they are feeling.   

The question we ask ourselves, as infant teachers is: Why is this so?  

Could it be that something as simple as extending a child’s learning within a play-based setting for longer and allowing children the time to develop both emotionally, socially and academically might be a solution to these, most challenging dilemmas?

Even after a decade of working in infant education, it always amazes me how much children learn from each other; their peers, siblings and friends.  I think as adults we also sometimes forget just how much ‘academic learning’ happens through play, within a play-based setting.  

Here at Cargilfield, we are given daily reminders of the important role that play gives the children as they grow and develop and how pivotal it is to their learning and establishing their habits as lifelong learners.

We see examples of this every day in all sorts of wonderful ways, a few of which I have highlighted here:

All manner of fantastic art work and den building takes place where the children are able to use their imagination and problem-solving skills to create something wonderful.  These types of play scenarios are crucial in developing the children’s imagination, critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Creativity through play has also been shown to extend and enrich children’s learning in many different ways; creating their own self-portraits, making woodland art pictures and scavenging for items to make their own woodland crowns are just a few examples of how children are able to consolidate and process their learning through creative endeavours.  These sorts of activities are so important to help brain development in infant children as they promote cognitive, social and emotional development aswell as helping to develop a range of multi-sensory skills.  It is these types of experience which help to build self-esteem, resilience and cognitive understanding which become crucial to the children as they increasingly are faced with; challenge, self-doubt and change as they progress through school.

The experiential learning of a play-based setting, for example using water, sand etc, enables children to test their hypotheses, stretch their imagination and explore their senses through these different mediums.  These ‘learning opportunities’ encourage the children to lead their own learning to help them develop their physical, cognitive and social skills in a variety of ways which are becoming increasingly critical for children further down the path of their own educational journey.

Engaging with the real world whether it be planting pumpkin seeds and thinking of ways in which we can help the seeds grow or what we can make/do with the pumpkins once they have grown, are all opportunities which build an inquisitive mind.  Learning through ‘doing’ enables the children to discover, learn and explore their natural surroundings.  It empowers children to lead their own learning in this instance; deciding what we plant, how we might help the seeds to grow and what we want to do with the vegetables which will emerge.  Ultimately, this will develop key thinking skills, resilience and self-belief in children who engage in this type of learning.

Role play and creative drama also plays an important role in the children’s learning at this early stage.  It is through this type of play that the children are extending their understanding of community, culture and the wider world as they take on different characters in play and learn to empathise and understand the feelings of others as they ‘step’ in to their shoes.  All crucial aspects of emotional intelligence which the children will increasingly come to rely on as the progress through school and in to the wider world.

So, when we take a step back and consider ‘I’m just not sure they’re ready…they’re so young’.   Let’s not forget that their physical, cognitive and social skills can often be nurtured far more successfully in a play based setting when children are 4 and 5.  Those extra months spent immersed in play can often make a monumental difference to a child’s progress towards becoming a successful learner and an effective contributor in later life.  The benefits of which might not fully be recognised until adulthood. Therefore, when we reflect on the fact that ‘they grow so fast’ surely it is important to remember that it is often an investment in play based learning at an early age which ultimately pays the largest dividend.

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When to start school?

An important decision with many options


As infant teachers, we hear it all the time! ‘They grow so fast…I can’t believe they are going to school’ ‘I’m just not sure they’re ready…they’re so young’.   It always seems a puzzle to me, therefore, why there is such a sense of urgency for children to move into a formalised school setting at the age of 4 and a half or even 5.   This is becoming a particularly interesting debate as increasingly research is showing us that young children; are experiencing challenges to their mental health, they are increasingly experiencing issues around anxiety and lack of resilience and frequently display other challenging behaviours which are often a result of the frustrations they are feeling.   

The question we ask ourselves, as infant teachers is: Why is this so?  

Could it be that something as simple as extending a child’s learning within a play-based setting for longer and allowing children the time to develop both emotionally, socially and academically might be a solution to these, most challenging dilemmas?

Even after a decade of working in infant education, it always amazes me how much children learn from each other; their peers, siblings and friends.  I think as adults we also sometimes forget just how much ‘academic learning’ happens through play, within a play-based setting.  

Here at Cargilfield, we are given daily reminders of the important role that play gives the children as they grow and develop and how pivotal it is to their learning and establishing their habits as lifelong learners.

We see examples of this every day in all sorts of wonderful ways, a few of which I have highlighted here:

All manner of fantastic art work and den building takes place where the children are able to use their imagination and problem-solving skills to create something wonderful.  These types of play scenarios are crucial in developing the children’s imagination, critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Creativity through play has also been shown to extend and enrich children’s learning in many different ways; creating their own self-portraits, making woodland art pictures and scavenging for items to make their own woodland crowns are just a few examples of how children are able to consolidate and process their learning through creative endeavours.  These sorts of activities are so important to help brain development in infant children as they promote cognitive, social and emotional development aswell as helping to develop a range of multi-sensory skills.  It is these types of experience which help to build self-esteem, resilience and cognitive understanding which become crucial to the children as they increasingly are faced with; challenge, self-doubt and change as they progress through school.

The experiential learning of a play-based setting, for example using water, sand etc, enables children to test their hypotheses, stretch their imagination and explore their senses through these different mediums.  These ‘learning opportunities’ encourage the children to lead their own learning to help them develop their physical, cognitive and social skills in a variety of ways which are becoming increasingly critical for children further down the path of their own educational journey.

Engaging with the real world whether it be planting pumpkin seeds and thinking of ways in which we can help the seeds grow or what we can make/do with the pumpkins once they have grown, are all opportunities which build an inquisitive mind.  Learning through ‘doing’ enables the children to discover, learn and explore their natural surroundings.  It empowers children to lead their own learning in this instance; deciding what we plant, how we might help the seeds to grow and what we want to do with the vegetables which will emerge.  Ultimately, this will develop key thinking skills, resilience and self-belief in children who engage in this type of learning.

Role play and creative drama also plays an important role in the children’s learning at this early stage.  It is through this type of play that the children are extending their understanding of community, culture and the wider world as they take on different characters in play and learn to empathise and understand the feelings of others as they ‘step’ in to their shoes.  All crucial aspects of emotional intelligence which the children will increasingly come to rely on as the progress through school and in to the wider world.

So, when we take a step back and consider ‘I’m just not sure they’re ready…they’re so young’.   Let’s not forget that their physical, cognitive and social skills can often be nurtured far more successfully in a play based setting when children are 4 and 5.  Those extra months spent immersed in play can often make a monumental difference to a child’s progress towards becoming a successful learner and an effective contributor in later life.  The benefits of which might not fully be recognised until adulthood. Therefore, when we reflect on the fact that ‘they grow so fast’ surely it is important to remember that it is often an investment in play based learning at an early age which ultimately pays the largest dividend.

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Cargilfield Connected

We can’t welcome you to our grounds right now, but we can offer you a virtual tour and we can answer questions via email or telephone. We especially like to chat face-to-face on a video call.

We have places available for 2021 entry in most year groups.

For now, we hope that this video, presented by our Headmaster, Mr Rob Taylor, will give you a flavour of what life is like here at Cargilfield. Our website and social media channels are kept up to date and hold a wealth of information about our school.

Our Registrar, Fiona Craig is available to contact via email: [email protected] and she will be happy to help you. Thank you

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