Former primary school teacher and SNP MSP for Glasgow Kelvin, Kaukab Stewart, has called for a national conversation on reforming early years education.


Ms Stewart, along with organisations such as Upstart Scotland, are calling for policymakers to join academics, teachers, parents, and children in a national conversation on the benefits of play-based education, and a later school-start age.


In a motion to the Scottish Parliament, Ms Stewart points to a “body of international evidence of the benefits of play-based early years education,” and that “active, social play is a natural learning drive that helps develop physical fitness, social skills, cognitive capacities and personal qualities.”


The motion, which is marked for members debate, states “a universal play-based kindergarten stage, with a raised formal school starting age, could contribute to closing the attainment gap and be a significant anti-poverty measure, and that it would help provide a true level playing field for all of Scotland’s children.”


At their 2022 conference, the SNP passed a resolution calling for the school-start age in Scotland to be raised from 5 years to 6 years, to help encourage the natural development of young children prior to formal education.


The proposal was adopted by members as SNP policy, though, as this was after the 2021 election, it was not in the Party’s last Holyrood manifesto.


Commenting, Kaukab Stewart MSP said:


“Having been a teacher for nearly three decades, I have a good idea about what works and where we need to have a healthy, open debate about improvements.


“Early years is the most crucial developmental stage for children – it really defines how each child is going to develop and grow through their lives.  The UN considers this to be from birth to aged 8, yet we’re sending children into formal education settings at the age of 5 – and some even younger than that.


“Countries that have later school-start ages outperform countries with earlier start ages on international PISA comparisons – and many of those, such as Germany and Finland, have a play-based kindergarten stage or similar until ages 6 or 7.


“I have engaged with MSP colleagues across all parties on this issue, and I know there is interest across political divides to looking at doing something differently to give children in Scotland the best possible start in life. 


“I’m confident my motion will receive cross-party support and look forward to it being debated in the Chamber, so we can have an up-front and honest discussion about early years and the benefits of a kindergarten stage for Scotland.


“I also look forward to this becoming a wider debate, involving all interested parties – not just policy makers – but parents, teachers academics, and children too.  Children deserve us taking the time to get this right.”