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When it comes to your children, one of the hardest decisions you will need to make as a parent is when is the right time to send them to school.
This, of course, is a highly personal decision that will depend on a range of factors. The key one of which is whether your child is actually ready to go there.
For some children, starting school at the age of six might be beneficial as it gives them an extra 12 months to grow and mature. For others who might be ready at the age of five, holding them back for another year might just stunt their academic development.
If your child has been attending kindergarten or an early learning centre like Raising Stars for a significant period, the chances are they might be ready. If they haven’t then you will have to make a judgement call.
In this article, we will help you do just that by answering the question of how early you need to start educating your children.
So, be sure to keep on reading until the end to get a clearer picture.
What to consider when your child starts school?
Sending your child to school is not a decision you should take lightly and it is worth discussing it with those who have played an active role in their development.
While this might include your parents, family members and friends, more weight should be put on the opinions of professionals who know the school system. So be sure to seek guidance from the staff at your child’s early learning centre.
When deciding when to send your child to school, your decision should not rest solely on the current state of their academic skills. In fact teachers believe this to be one of the least important factors to consider.
Instead, you should focus on your child’s ability to do the following:
- Interact with other children and adults
- Regulate and manage their emotions i.e., becalm themselves after being upset
- Follow the instructions of the teacher
- Use the bathroom on their own and recognise their need to use the toilet
- Look after their lunch box, school bag and other belongings
It is also important to establish:
- When other children your child knows will be starting school
- What support systems are in place at the school
- How them starting school will impact your home life, other commitments and finances
Another thing to take into account is that the structure of the school day is significantly different from that of a day at kindy. You should also note the teacher often has to divide their time among a lot more students. Both might affect how your child takes to school.
In addition, at school, there is usually an increased expectation on the child to follow adult-let activities and be part of a group for a longer part of the day.
Finally, should your child have a disability, you will need to weigh up whether their development in certain areas might be more restricted than their peers. If it is, you will need to flag to what degree if any it might impede their enjoyment or capability at school.
Can my child start school gradually?
If you are unsure whether your child is ready for full-time school just yet, one solution might be to gradually transition them into it.
You will need to plan this out with the school to ensure you are both singing from the same hymn sheet, but as an example, your child could attend on the following schedule:
Week 1 – 5 half days
Week 2 – 1 full day and 4 half days
Week 3 – 2 full days and 3 half days
Week 4 – 3 full days and 2 half days
Week 5 – 4 full days and 1 half days
Week 6 – 5 full days.
Ideally, your goal should be to ensure your child attends school full-time as quickly as possible. So, you should come up with a strategy that will make their transition as quick and seamless as possible.
What are the legal requirements for starting school?
Irrespective of when you want to send your child to school, throughout Australia, every state and territory has its own set of rules as to when it is mandatory to do so.
This differs as follows:
ACT – To begin the school year children must have turned five years old by 30th April.
NSW – Children are allowed to begin mandatory Kindergarten at the start of the school year if they are five years old on or before 31st July of that year. As soon as they turn six years old, they must start school.
NT – Children could commence a non-compulsory transition at the beginning of the school year if they turned five years old by 30 June that year. For them to enter compulsory Year 1, they will need to have turned six years old before June 30th of that year.
QLD – In Queensland, children can begin non-compulsory Prep if their fifth birthday falls on or before 30th June. They must start compulsory year 1 if they are six years old by 30th June.
SA – All children must start school at the age of six years old. If they happen to turn five years old before May 1st, they will start school on the first day of that year’s term 1. Should their birthday fall on or after that date they will start school on the opening day of term 1 next year.
TAS – Children can attend non-compulsory Kindergarten if they turn four years old before or on January 1st of the year in which they start. Should they turn five by that date, they will need to start Prep, which is the introductory year of proper school.
VIC – To begin school in any given year, children must have turned five years old by April 30th.
WA – Children are obliged to start school if their fifth birthday falls after the 30th of June in the months before the new school year. Similarly, they will also need to do so if they turn five before that date of the current school year.
What about before they start school?
Of course, education should start from home well before your child starts school.
The earlier you expose your child to educational practices the better and you can do this in several different ways.
One of the main things you can do is read to them and encourage them to read to you. If you need some inspiration, the publishing house Penguin recently produced a list of the Top 10 most popular Australian kids’ books you might want to get.
Other things you can do include taking them to museums, galleries and other institutions of learning specifically set up for children.
Whilst you may limit the amount of TV they watch, there are plenty of educational videos on YouTube you should let them view. Not only will it capture their attention, but it will open their eyes and teach them about a whole range of subjects including science, history, maths and geography.
Be sure to eat dinner as a family where possible too, as this encourages conversation and strengthens family bonds.
It is also good to encourage your child to draw and get creative with toys like building blocks, Lego and play-do as well as musical instruments.
Lastly, make sure you are a good role model to them as that is the most important factor of all.