There are many factors to consider when deciding if your child is ready for 'big school' and the decision can be quite daunting.
We've created this guide to answer some common questions and better equip parents with the knowledge to make an informed decision when deciding if they should send their child to school.
What's School Readiness
School readiness is determined by much more than a child’s chronological age. ‘School readiness’ is a measure of the knowledge, skills and behaviours that enable children to participate and succeed in school. Parents sometimes think that school readiness means being able to read, write and do basic maths before starting school. But this isn’t the case! School readiness is about the development of the whole child – their social and emotional skills, physical skills, communication skills and cognitive skills. Children cannot thrive at school if they haven’t developed the skills to manage things like getting along with other children, following instructions, and communicating their needs.
Are they ready? How can you tell?
As a parent, your best resource is your child's educator who will be able to use their knowledge and experience to help assess if your child is ready for school.
Your child needs to be emotionally ready, socially ready and physically ready.
If they are not ready then they're going to be under stress and pressure at school to try to keep up with their peers and try to keep up with the demands that the teachers may place on them. It doesn't make school a successful learning experience for them and if we want to set children up for success then we need to support them and their families in having them be ready for school as much as possible.
What's the right age to start school?
School readiness is determined by much more than a child’s chronological age. In order to have a happy and successful start to school, children also need to have a firm grasp of language, fine/gross motor coordination, social and emotional skills.
According to leading neuroscientist Nathan Wallis, the latest literature on brain development tells us that:
An extra year as a “pre-schooler” means more self-initiated, self-directed free play. And, it is through free play that kids develop certain qualities and attitudes, like curiosity, creativity, resourcefulness, perseverance and resilience.
Nathan Wallis went on to say in an interview with the NZ Herald that:
"Research shows that the majority of children are disadvantaged by starting school at age 5 and the children's brains need them to be physically active as the neuro science shows that movement and learning go together."
So why do we start our kids at 5 years if we know it's better to start them later?
Habit! We've just always done it that way! Everyone else's kids start then so we do too.
Frequently Asked Questions
I don't think my child is ready to go to school. Can they do an extra year of Kindy?
Yes! You can delay your child from starting school.
Here's what the Queensland Department of Education says about this:
"Parents may delay their child's entry to Prep (and subsequently Year 1) if they feel that the child is not ready to start school. For example, the child is still developing their social and emotional skills. The child can then commence Prep when they are of compulsory school age (6 years and 6 months).
No formal documentation, assessment or approval is required for delayed entry to Prep.
Principals do not make decisions on delaying a child's entry to Prep. While some parents may choose to discuss their decision to delay entry with the principal, it is not necessary for them to do so."
I think my child's ready for school, but they were born after the June 30th cut off. Can my child start school earlier?
Queensland children must still turn 5 years of age by 30 June in the year they start Prep. However, legislation allows parents of a child who turns 5 by 31 July to apply for early entry to Prep. A July-born child is not guaranteed early enrolment. Early entry to Prep is an exception, where it is in the best interests of the child and they have the required attributes.
You will need to meet with the principal to discuss early entry requirements and the application process before receiving an application form. Application forms are available only at the school. Applications for early entry to Prep should be made in September/October to enable sufficient time for assessment, and to prepare your child for attending school or continuing in an early childhood education and care program. The school will be able to provide advice on its specific processing timeframes.