The boss of educational standards organisation Ofsted wants children as young as two to start learning in school nurseries to boost their life chances.
Baroness Sally Morgan says children from poor backgrounds have a “dire” start to their education – and many can be up to a year-and-a-half behind their classmates by the time they start school at the age of five.
But the Pre-School Alliance, and South Holland headteachers, say two years old is too young for children to begin formal education.
A Pre-School Alliance spokesman said: “Who would disagree with Sally Morgan that children from disadvantaged backgrounds need considerably more support? However to suggest that placing two and three-year-olds in schools is the answer is beyond belief.”
St Paul’s Community Primary School serves one of the poorest communities in South Holland.
Its headteacher Kira Nicholls said pupils start in the school nursery in the September term if they are three by August 31, but two is far too young.
Miss Nicholls said: “Giving children the best life chances is what we are all about.”
She believes the most helpful thing would be to invest money in helping families at home.
“I think there’s a place for supporting parents to support their children and giving them experiences outside of the school context,” she said.
Christine Wright, headteacher at Fleet Wood Lane and Holbeach Bank, said: “To have a school curriculum and school day for two-year-olds would not be appropriate.”
Mrs Wright said children start school aged six or seven in some other European countries, but two is “too young”.
She said: “It’s two extremes. I can’t see that having to go to school from two years upwards would actually bring any more benefit.”