Research connects too early school start to long ­term damage to mental health

See Evidence on (the section on longitudinal research) for details. Two significant studies are:

4574733303_c568605333_bLasting Differences: the High/Scope Preschool Curriculum Comparison Study through Age 27
by L Schweinhart and D.P Weikhart, Monographs of the High/Scope Educational Research Foundation (High/Scope Press, 1993)

This study followed three groups of disadvantaged pre­schoolers:

  • Group (1) free play nursery
  • Group (2) High/Scope approach (similar to Nordic kindergartens)
  • Group (3) formal learning (like many P1 classrooms)

Group (3) had significantly more emotional, social and behavioural problems during their subsequent school careers . In early adulthood, they were significantly more likely to be involved in crime than the other two groups, had more problems with relationships and difficulty holding down jobs, and were less likely to vote.

[In our website Evidence section there’s an eight minute video clip, featuring an interview with one of the authors and illustrations of the effects early school experiences can have on disadvantaged children’s life chances.]

chess-775346_1280Early educational milestones as predictor of life­long achievement, mid­life adjustment and longevity by Margaret Kern and Howard S Friedman in Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 2008

This extremely longitudinal study (80 years) followed a large cohort of children throughout their lives. It found that ‘early school entry was associated with less educational attainment, worse mid­life adjustment and… increased mortality risk’.

The subjects in this case were high­ability, middle­class Californians.

Longitudinal research of this kind is difficult to conduct so there aren’t many examples. But, to our knowledge, every study ever conducted has shown that the academic advantages of an early start ‘wash out’ by the teenage years, while the social and emotional disadvantages linger on indefinitely.