What Is The Right Age To Start School?
In Victoria, in order to begin attending primary school, children must turn 5 by at least the 30th of April in that year. Children who are born after this date will start Prep in the following year, once they have already turned 5. Because of the flexibility of entry times, there can often be a significant age gap, sometimes as large as 18 months, between students in the same class. This leads to an anxiety among parents about whether their child is old enough, and emotionally or intellectually mature enough, to start school. The decision of when to place your child into Prep is often an incredibly difficult one.
In recent years, there has been a growing trend in parents delaying putting their children into school as long as possible, sometimes until they are as old as 6. In part, this trend has been influenced by the research of people such as Steve Biddulph (in his 1997 bestseller Raising Boys) which suggests that children feel insecure, anxious and inadequate if they are sent to school too early.
According to Biddulph, delaying your child’s entry into Prep is a good way of giving them an advantage over their classmates. However, it is important to note that, despite the growing popularity of this idea, experts are by no means unanimous when it comes to the benefits of delaying schooling.
In recent years, other educational experts have demonstrated that the situation is not as simple. Holding your child back, while allowing them time to mature, can also have significant long-term impacts on their confidence and mental development. As Elder and Lubotsky put it: “Rather than providing a boost to children’s human capital development, delayed entry simply postpones learning and is likely not worth the long-term costs.”
Clearly, the question of when to send your child to school is not easy to answer, and nor should it be. Every child is unique and, as such, every parent must make their own decisions as to when their child is ready. While delaying a child’s schooling may be beneficial in some cases, it is important not to get swept up by the actions of the crowd at the expense of your child’s education.
It is also important to remember that chronological age does not always equate to emotional or mental maturity, and that time is not the only factor in your child’s development. Indeed, a lot of the power to ensure that your child is ready to begin school lies with you. In large part, the way that you help your child, play, learn and grow in the few years before primary school can have a far more profound effect on their maturity than an extra year can ever have.
While many parents have every intention of doing everything they can to develop school ready skills, they often don’t know where to start or have the skills or time to research and find suitable activities. This is why I started Arts ‘n Smarts. It’s to give parents like you, the tools, guidance and resources to help your child develop essential skills so they will be confident and enthusiastic learners before they even step foot in a classroom, irrespective of whether they start school at the age of 5 or 6. By reading to them, spending time and communicating with them through hands on activities based on a theme, you will be developing positive attitudes towards learning which they will have with them for life.
In our next blog post, we will give some more specific tips on the main skills that all children should develop before commencing school, and things that you can do (apart from just sitting by and waiting an extra year) to help your child develop them!
At what age are you thinking of sending your child to school? Let me know in the comments!