Pre-school education should focus on ensuring children possess the social skills necessary to thrive at school, according to a new survey.
The Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY) polled 1,474 parents, 500 childcare professionals and 160 staff in teacher jobs about which qualities they believe children need to have to be prepared for starting school.
It revealed most respondents agreed that a definition of being 'school-ready' should include possessing strong social skills and the capacity to be away from their parent or carer for a number of hours.
Most childcare professionals and teachers identified curiosity and a desire to learn as essential qualities, with parents meanwhile placing emphasis on their children being independent in personal care.
By contrast, only four per cent of teachers cited having an understanding of reading, writing and arithmetic as essential to school-readiness, compared to a third of childcare professionals and a quarter of parents.
PACEY's chief executive Liz Bayram said the findings show respondents believe play should be given ample emphasis alongside educational attainment in early years settings, in order for children to develop into "confident, communicative, sociable and curious individuals".
She remarked: "We want policymakers in England to look to other countries - not just Nordic countries, but closer to home in Wales - to see how a truly play-based approach not only supports children to achieve in their early years, but throughout their school life and beyond."
The survey's findings were backed by Cathy Ranson, editor-in-chief of parenting site Netmums.com, who said parents feel being school-ready relates to how their children deal with practical issues, or whether they have the maturity to listen to and understand teachers' instructions.
However, a Department for Education spokeswoman stressed the importance of giving parents of young children a range of educational approaches to choose from, including free school play and structured learning.
She told BBC News good quality, teacher-led early years education has proven beneficial for children, especially those from lower income backgrounds who are less likely to possess basic language and communication skills.
Posted by Harriet McGowan