The decision of whether to send their little one to school the following year can be a cause of great anxiety for parents of children born in the first half of the year. The difficult decision is compounded not only by the conflicting information on the subject, but also the disparity in starting ages in schools within Australia and around the world.
In Australia, most states require that children be enrolled in the first year of school the year they turn six. However, all states differ in their eligibility for younger children to start school, with the potential for up to an 18-month age gap between students in the same year. Looking at some of the differences even within Australia, you can see why it’s a confusing subject:
NSW: Children can enrol in Kindergarten (first year of school) if they turn five before 31 July
VIC: Children can enrol in Prep (first year of school) if they turn five before 30 April
QLD: Children can enrol in Prep (first year of school) if they turn five before 30 June
SA: Children enrol in Reception (first year of school) in January if their birthday falls before 31 May that year. If their birthday is after 31 May they start the following January.
Figures show a steady decline in younger eligible children enrolling at school as parents favour their child being among the oldest in the year, with the average starting age in Australian schools now at 5.2 years old. Educational statistics from around the world lean towards favouring a later starting age. In Singapore, Shanghai and Finland, three of the world’s best performing education systems, the average starting age was almost seven years old, with higher attendance rates in preschools than we have here in Australia.
However, age shouldn’t be the only determining factor of school readiness. Children vary considerably at this age in their abilities, temperament and personalities. Some four year olds may have mastered some of the skills that will help them adjust to school life ahead of their five and six year old counterparts.
These are the factors to consider when deciding whether to send your four year old to school.
- Their ability to take care of themselves. This includes their general belongings, personal hygiene, and emotions
- Their ability to make friends and interact with their peers
- Their ability to listen and to follow instructions
These skills are considered by experts to be a better indicator of school readiness than a child’s academic ability when starting school. If children are able to look after themselves, make friends and listen, they will be happier in the school environment, in a better position to learn, and will be easier to teach.
Here are some of the guidelines for School Starting Ages from different states in Australia:
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