Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has today used a visit to Dunfermline to make the case for raising the starting age for formal schooling to 7, transforming how children learn in what is currently P1 and P2.
The longer early years phase will still be mandatory but it will focus on child development, social skills, outdoor learning, and physical and mental health.
In advance of this, the party would also immediately abolish the SNP's controversial national testing of five-year-olds which runs contrary to a play-based education and has been heavily criticised by teachers and independent education experts.
Willie Rennie said:
“At the forthcoming election, Scottish Liberal Democrats will ask voters to back us to put the education system first.
“Scottish Liberal Democrats will introduce a truly-play based education until age 7 to give every child a flying start. By learning together through play children develop the skills needed for trickier tasks and are better prepared to shine in areas like literacy and numeracy.
“The UK is almost unique in Europe in expecting children as young as 4 or 5 to begin formal schooling. By the age of 9, pupils in Finland have much higher reading levels than pupils in the UK, having started at the age of 7.
"In advance of this we would also immediately abolish the national testing of four- and five-year-olds introduced by the SNP and heavily criticised by teachers. Parliament voted to halt them years ago but was ignored. The SNP claimed the support of world-leading experts for the controversial policy, only for those same experts to call it a 'perverse misrepresentation' of their work and conclude the tests were 'completely useless'.
“Scottish Liberal Democrats will always be the party of education. It’s time for a historical, radical, and positive change to improve our children’s future. Raising the starting age for formal schooling to 7 is an important part of our plans to make Scottish education the best again."