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Are Your Children Ready For The “Big School?” — Things You Need To Know

When Do Children Have To Start School?

As 2019 comes to a close, heaps of parents must be contemplating whether their four-year-old kid should start school next year, or just have them re-enrol in Early Childhood Education.

Children start school at varying ages and most people might think that a child’s age is the only factor to consider when it comes to readiness for the “big school”.

In fact, starting school may also depend on where you live.

Australian States and Territories have set their own standards for when children should start school:

New South Wales Children may start school if they turn five (5) by 31st July that year.
Victoria Child must turn five (5) by 30th April in their first school year.
Queensland and Western Australia Child must turn five (5) by 30th June.
Tasmania Children who have turned five (5) on or by 1st January must start school that year


little girl drawing on her book and having fun at playtable

With the common trend of having children to turn five-years-old first before being eligible to go to school, this means that there’s the option of starting some children who are four and a half or holding them back until the following year.

It’s actually up to the parents to decide what’s best for their child.


I. What Is School Delay And How Common Is It?

School Delay is a common situation many children experience, as parents make the call to hold back their children for 1 more year before they enrol for the big school.

Accoexcited little boy painting with colorful paintsrding to a recent study led by the University of New South Wales25% of children in NSW are being held back a year. A way higher figure than the 10% of children being held back in Victoria. NSW’s numbers are also ahead of WA’s — which has a late cut-off date almost similar to NSW, but with lower rates of school delay.

The study had a sample of 100,000 children and found that half of NSW parents chose to hold back their children from schooling when they turned five (5) between January and July.

The research also found that disadvantaged, less educated, and migrant parents were less likely to hold their children back from going to school. The finding has led to fears and speculations that the high cost of childcare is forcing some families to send their children to school before they’re actually ready.

Holding back may actually be a good strategy to get your child “well-prepared” for the big school. But of course, heaps of factors should be considered before a parent can really decide and tell whether their child is ready or not.

II. How To Tell If Your Child Is Ready?

Aside from the respective State and Territory age guidelines on sending your child off to big school, the Australian Government has also laid out questions parents must ask themselves to at least have an idea if their child is “school-ready”:

How are their social skills? Are they capable of basic manners, autonomy, and cooperation?
How emotionally mature are they? Can they focus, follow instructions, manage their emotions, cope with larger adult to child ratios?
How are their language skills? Can they listen to adults, speak clearly, understand stories, communicate needs?
How are their cognitive skills? Do they have basic number sense and thinking skills, can they take turns and wait?
How is their physical health and coordination Can they grip a pencil, turn pages, run, jump, climb, play ball?
How independent are they? Can they look after their belongings, go to the toilet by themselves, get dressed, eat lunch without adult supervision?

If you’re not sure how your child is doing, then you may seek advice from their early childhood educator and they will be more than willing to provide you with some feedback on their readiness for the big school.

III. Summary

Group Of Elementary Age School children In Class With Teacher

▪ On a yearly basis, parents who have children aged 4-5 years old face a difficult decision to make — should they start school, or hold them back for Early Childhood Education.

▪ School Delay is a common situation many children experience, as parents make the call to hold back their children for 1 more year before they enrol for the big school.

▪ Although, a study conducted by the UNSW saw that disadvantaged, less educated, and migrant parents were less likely to hold their children back from going to school — which leads researchers to believe that financial stability and the high cost of Early Childhood Education are forcing some families to send their children to school before they’re really ready.

▪ Parents must be able to assess if their child’s ready for school, or should hold them back and have them take Early Childhood Education for 1 more year.


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