Starting School: Timing is Everything

Deciding the ideal age what age is ideal to send your child to primary school can be tricky for parents. This isn’t surprising, especially considering that the age requirements for commencing formal schooling variety across the country. It can often feel especially difficult for parents when their child is right on the cusp of being allowed to start school in their state.

In 2019 the Australian Childcare Alliance (ACA) called upon the government to create a nationally consistent school starting age to ensure children are at least 5-years old by 1 January in their first year of formal schooling and invest more into children’s vital pre-school years. For now, it remains up to individual state laws, parental choice, and the guidance and advice of qualified early childhood educators and teachers to help ensure children have the best start in life.

Essential considerations before sending children to school

There are many things to consider before sending a child to school. These factors are important for educators to be aware of and for families too.

Let’s take a refresher through some of these vital considerations:

School readiness is more than age

Of course, a child’s age comes into play when deciding if they are ready for school, but there are so many other factors to consider.

For example, personality can dictate whether a child is suited to start school sooner or later, as well as their skills – this includes the physical, social, and emotional ability.

Kathy Walker from Early Life Foundations has shared seven key areas to consider whether children are ready for school, including:

  1. Separate easily from parent/carer at preschool drop off 
  2. Independently make a decision of where they are going to work/play 
  3. Self-initiate, engage and sustain engagement (6 – 8 minutes), have the skills to solve basic problems, and ask for help from the educator if needed 
  4. Work and play beside other children 
  5. Have basic independence skills (able to put shoes and socks on, art smock on, toileting independently) 
  6. Sit with the group (eg mat time) and remain focused, ask questions and answer questions from the educator 
  7. Self regulate their emotional response when they need to do something they don’t want to (eg don’t tantrum when it is time to pack up)

Understand the research

A study in 2012 showed the average school starting age for Australian children is 5.2. This means Australia has among the youngest school entry age in the developed world. Research also shows that the highest performing students academically had a higher average starting age. This is in line with the outcomes shown in countries such as Finland and Denmark, where children start at 6 or 7 years of age. Research has made it very clear that there are many benefits to starting school that little bit later, whereas there are no known benefits for children who start earlier.

Take your time

There are so many things to consider before sending children to school, so don’t rush it. The argument that some children are moved into school because they are bored at pre-school is one that may, unfortunately, be valid at times, depending on the pre-school children are attending.

This is one of the reasons why we are so passionate about ensuring that kinder programs are able to attain a delicate balance of learning. This balance comprises structured and somewhat challenging learning and school readiness initiatives along with free play at this crucial time before children enter formal education.

Make sure children are in a program that is stimulating and creates an exciting pre-school experience. This can go a long way toward preventing young children from starting formal schooling before they are developmentally, emotionally, or socially ready. And that means a better chance of laying the foundation for a lifelong love of learning.

At Bonkers Beat we are passionate about school readiness and believe that when it comes to starting school it is crucial to consider international research and evidence of emotional and social developmental stages to ensure quality education.

If you want to give your child the best start to their schooling years and are looking for a high-quality preschool kinder program, call us on 03 9587 8786. To learn more about the Bonkers Beat Preschool Program or to register for a kinder tour, click here. 

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