LESLEY Riddoch’s excellent piece on the need for a kindergarten stage (“Why is the SNP afraid to raise the school starting age?”, The Herald, August 29) could not have been more timely. The combined effects of the pandemic and the cost of living crisis are disastrous for children, especially the swelling numbers who are growing up in poverty.

The poverty-related attainment gap is, at root, developmental. To prevent the gap widening to unimaginable proportions,

developmentally-appropriate, play-based pedagogy must become the norm throughout children’s early years. In the short term, this should not require additional funding. Since 2021, Scotland has provided 30 hours per week of funded childcare for three- and four-year-olds, and five-year-olds are already funded through the education budget. The main change required is a change of ethos in educational practice, so that all children, at least to the age of six, are relieved of the pressure of an unnecessarily-early start on the three Rs.

Play (especially active, social, outdoor play) is essential to every aspect of early child development, including the capacities underpinning success at school and long-term emotional resilience. Scotland already has excellent guidance for pedagogical practice in Curriculum for Excellence’s early level, which extends to age six, but educational policy-makers (national and local) still expect schools to focus on literacy and numeracy from age five. This guidance, therefore, cannot be properly put into practice.

The proposed motion for a play-based kindergarten stage at the forthcoming SNP Conference is, in fact, a call for a vitally important culture change in educational policy-making.

Sue Palmer, Chair, Upstart Scotland, Edinburgh.


LESLEY Riddoch writes a very informative article about the school starting age in Scotland. She compares Scottish schools, where children start formal education at four or five, with schools in many other European countries (notably Scandinavia, Spain and Germany) where the school starting age is around six years old. What wasn’t mentioned in the report is that Steiner schools in Scotland already have a school starting age of six, and have had this for many decades.

Steiner schools have Kindergarten groups which consist of children from three to six years old. The kindy teachers lead by example in their daily activities and the older children help the younger ones. This develops a real sense of respect for one another which continues into later years. The education at this age is focused upon learning from watching and copying and it stimulates the children to be eager and creative, which is great preparation for when they begin their formal classes.

Evidence indicates that children who start formal education at a later point learn so much quicker because they are well and truly ready for it, and this is something I witnessed myself with our three children, who attended the Edinburgh school from the 1990s onwards. In the school years that followed, education was centred on the “whole” person and I found first hand that the school’s philosophy in the early years led to well-rounded confident young adults with a genuine respect for others and the world around them.

Brian Watt, Edinburgh.


YOUR report of poor ticket sales at the Edinburgh Fringe struck a chord ("Fringe ticket sales slump as venues warn of spiralling accommodation costs", The Herald, August 29).

As a volunteer Festival guide, I meet many visitors to the Fringe. This year I heard many complaints about the cost of attending the event, especially regarding accommodation. But there was another reason for people not attending Fringe shows which was not mentioned in your report.

This year, tickets for the Fringe were entirely digital. The only way to get a ticket was via email. Of course, that wouldn't have been a problem for the vast majority of visitors. But I heard of several would-be customers who were angry and frustrated at not being able to attend a show of their choice because – for whatever reason – they didn't have access to email after arriving in Edinburgh. Some venues were willing to accept payment on the door, but this was by no means universal. The visitors affected by this rule were undoubtedly in a minority, but it was by no means a negligible one.

The Fringe Society boasts that its "vision is to give everyone a stage and everyone a seat" and that it will "pro-actively dismantle any barriers that stand in their way". The insistence on "digital only" is one barrier that it should dismantle in 2023.

Mike Lewis, Edinburgh.


I AM frequently puzzled by the choice of TV programmes which your staff recommend for our viewing. This weekend, however, I was flabbergasted by a sin of omission. In neither the Saturday nor Sunday magazine sections was there any mention (apart from the minuscule daily listings) of a programme that I and others of my vintage are looking forward to with great anticipation: the long-overdue repeat of a BBC2 serial from 1971, Sunset Song, based on Lewis Grassic Gibbon's novel, regarded by many as the greatest Scottish novel of all time, set in the Howe of the Mearns and starring Vivien Heilbron.

Its importance can be gauged by the fact that it is being shown on UK-wide television: BBC4, Wednesday, August 31 at 10pm, covering the first half of the novel.

Tom Rodger, Glasgow.


IAN Thomson's letter (August 29) reminded me of an Open University article online, "Thirty-seven winters of discontent".

Although it was last updated in 2017, it is still online and the article outlines predictions of winters of discontent that have been reported in the press – in point of fact, every year since 1979.

Personally, I prefer the headline writers who seek out innovative headlines. "Foot heads arms body" and "I'll have a pint of what Xi's having" are classics from the recent past, but whoever came up with "Sons of Toil buried under Tons of Soil" in the Pittsburg Post-Gazette in 1958 deserves a medal.

David Patrick, Edinburgh.


TUNING in by accident to the end of Celebrity Chase on STV the other night, I discovered that out of a panel of four, the only "celebrity" I’d heard of was Basil Brush. Should I be worried?

Stuart Neville, Clydebank.