WRITTEN BY: VICTORIA AITCHISON, HEAD OF NURSERY & ROB TAYLOR, HEADMASTER, CARGILFIELD SCHOOL
Should I defer my 4 year old?
At the beginning of each child’s entry into nursery, we ask parents to write their hopes and aspirations for their child. Unsurprisingly, parents never write that they want their child to be a genius, or to be the smartest child in the class or to even succeed in everything they do. What they want is for their child is to be kind and caring to others; to have compassion and integrity; to be resilient and dynamic and to be enthused by the world around them. They want them to learn through first-hand experience of wonder and amazement and to use their imagination as they develop their language, problem solving and representational skills.
When parents hear the term ‘defer’ for the first time, it can sometimes lead to preconceived misconceptions and opinions of failure and the thought of being behind their peers. You will not, however, hear teachers voice that opinion. They know full well that the chance to be older in their year group is a fortunate opportunity for their child.
A simple internet search of the term ‘defer into school’ would bombarded you with research papers and articles from around the globe. There is an abundance of studies supporting the process of deferring and they all centre around two main theories: Sending children into more formalised education too early can be detrimental to their long term learning and learning in a more play based setting supports children’s cognitive development.
At Cargilfield we recognise the value of the deferral process and, where appropriate, sending children into Primary 1 being that little bit older. We want to ensure that all of our children are not only academically ready for the demands of more formalised learning but also socially and emotionally ready too. This proven method is one of the many ways that Cargilfield differs from other schools. We aim to build stamina for study and ensure key skills are strongly embedded, so that each child fulfils their true potential as they progress through the school and in later life.
We hear too often that children are growing up too quickly; that they prefer to be playing outdoors rather than sitting at a table; that they can’t concentrate for more than 5 minutes before they’re wanting to move on to something else. However, do we stop to think why that is? Maybe we are expecting too much too early and missing some important steps along the way?
Those early stages of learning will develop creativity through play: be it from shaping their own artwork from what they have discovered around them or creating new worlds of imagination and seeing the world through the eyes of others. They will get more opportunity to learn by engaging with the real world: establishing the building blocks of literacy and numeracy and creating a resilience from solving problems through sand, water and cardboard
At Cargilfield each child is unique and individual and so decisions about starting Primary 1 should suit their natures and experiences rather than being shoe-horned into a calendar. We certainly take great care to ensure that deferring a child is the best outcome for them now and for their long-term future. And with children currently denied the chance to be amongst their peers, this can never be more true than now.