All children will have the option of a school place or free nursery care from the September after their fourth birthday under the biggest shake-up of primary education in 20 years, said the schools secretary Ed Balls. The move will give parents of summer-born babies up to two extra terms of schooling to counter the educational penalty of their birth date. The recommendation is contained in a wide-ranging review of the primary curriculum, published today by the former Ofsted chief Sir Jim Rose. It recommends scrapping the current curriculum and replacing it with a slimmed-down version designed to give schools more flexibility over what they teach. Balls immediately accepted the review's findings and said the new curriculum would be introduced in September 2011. The new curriculum entails mention of elevating ICT learning, introducing focus on speaking skills, emphasizing on learning based on play, teaching children to be happy and healthy and scrapping the 11 standalone subjects.
The change in school starting age, from the term before a child's fifth birthday to the September after their fourth, will be a major reform of the system designed to counter the educational deficit summer-born babies face. Research has shown they get lower grades at GCSE and are even less likely to go on to university. In a letter to Roseaccepting the recommendation, Balls said parents should have the option of 25 hours of free childcare to cater for those who have a 'strong preference' for their child's early education to happen outside of a formal school setting. The review acknowledges the controversy of proposing an earlier starting date among parents who fear their four-year-olds may not be ready for formal learning. Academic evidence is divided over whether starting school earlier or later is the best option for children. Rose revealed research showing that 94 out of 150 local authorities already operate the system of having a single entry point in September every year. Balls said, 'The new primary curriculum will slim down the existing compulsory national curriculum subjects into six new areas of learning that ensure that all children learn core subjects like history and geography but also about their personal development.'