The Education and Home Affairs Scrutiny Panel has undertaken a review into the School Starting Age in an attempt to establish if the needs of children and families in the Island are being met. The Panel was aware that some parents would like more choice around this area of their child's education. Jersey and the UK have one of the earliest ages for starting formal schooling in the world.
The review has examined Jersey legislation and policies of the Minister for Education, to establish if the current arrangements are socially, emotionally and developmentally appropriate for young children. The Panel has compared the local provisions with other jurisdictions to establish if Jersey has the most appropriate school starting age for our children.
The terms of reference for the review were:
- To establish if the legislation and policies relating to School Starting Age in Jersey are considered to meet the requirements of parents and children.
- To compare legislation and policies relating to School Starting Age in Jersey with those of other jurisdictions both nationally and internationally.
- To obtain evidence from the public and other stakeholders.
- To hold public hearings with the Minister for Education and any other individuals or organisational representatives considered necessary.
- To report to the States Assembly with the Panel's findings with any recommendations arising from the evidence.
Deputy Louise Doublet, who chairs the Panel, stated:
"As a trained Early Years Teacher by profession, the topic of School Starting Age has always been of interest to me. It remained so when I became a States Member as it seemed to be something that concerned many parents and professionals who spoke to me. We want the best for our children at all stages of life and never more so than during a transition from one stage to the next. The transition to formal schooling is arguably one of the most significant events of all during childhood. My key objective throughout this review was to keep in mind the needs of the Island's young children and to assess whether they were being well served by the Minister for Education and his policies.
The report contains several recommendations that if accepted by the Minister, will help to make improvements in the best interests of young children who are entering the world of education."
The Panel has:
- visited various Primary Schools on the Island
- sought assistance from an independent outside advisor, Professor Elizabeth Wood who provided an enlightening report which is included with the Panel's report
- held public meetings and
- heard from the Minister for Education at public hearings.
The Panel has now completed its review and has nine key findings and ten recommendations. The key findings and recommendations revolve around:
- Parental Choice
- Consulting teachers & encouraging professional judgement
Deputy Doublet went on to explain:
"We found that parents wanted more choice about not just when their children started school, but more so about what type of schooling they received when they entered education. There should be some flexibility so that each child starts formal schooling at the age they are ready. Changes to policy and legislation may be required in order to facilitate this.
Parents should be given more, and better quality information much earlier and in a way that is accessible to them, so that they can make informed choices.
Early Years Teachers and other professionals should be given the resources they need to facilitate each child's learning as an individual – and they should be trusted and encouraged to use their professional judgement. One of the standout recommendations for me is the idea of local teachers and other early years professionals getting together and contributing to the creation of a Jersey Early Years Curriculum, tailored to the needs of the island's children.
We should aim high and provide the very best for each child when they start school, and beyond."
The Panel's report, including that of the advisor and reports from workshops held in schools, with parents and members of the public, can all be found on this website.