The question of whether children are ready for school has certainly become a hot button issue. The changes that have been made in some states and territories regarding prep, preschool and kindergarten combined with a huge increase in the amount of ‘school readiness’ programs have left a lot of parents and caregivers feeling worried and unsure.
Obviously, parents want their children to succeed. Success doesn’t necessarily mean academic, either. The emotional and social ‘success’ of children, particularly in their early years, is just as important as the marks they achieve – if not more so. Parents want their children to feel comfortable, confident and capable. School, to a certain degree, is supposed to be challenging to inspire learning and engage our children in critical thought. However, the question has come up…
Are we asking too much too soon?
Many students across the country are now starting prep or school at a very young age. It’s not uncommon to have a class with many four year olds in it. This creates a unique challenge for educators and has left many parents worried that their child will fall behind. Many of us are asking –
Is my child ready for school?
There is NO set test to see whether an individual child is ready for school or not. The decision should be made in consultation and keep the needs of the child (and their family) at the absolute centre of any conversation.
Meeting with preschool and kindergarten educators is a great first step. Asking for their professional opinions, looking at official observations and documentations and getting a ‘feel’ for the child as a communal learner are a great way to initially approach school readiness. Children can be very different in the classroom as opposed to home so it’s vital to get the perspective of their trusted early years learning educators.
Consulting a range of experts, from GPs to occupational therapists, may provide parents with a more complete picture of their child’s likelihood of success. Speech therapists, play therapists, child psychologists and other medical professionals will provide data and statistical analysis that will help provide another piece of the puzzle to parents asking, “Is my child ready to start school?”.
You might also like: Developmental milestones – how many words should my toddler say?
Is there a BASIC checklist?
Many parents like to ‘check off’ certain skills to see if their child meets criteria. Whilst this is NOT an indicator of whether an individual child should start school or not, it may be a point to begin professional conversations from. Please note that the following points will differ depending on the individual – the presence of disability or the need for different levels of assistance will alter these markers.
The following checklist comes as an amalgamation of a variety of educational sources across different state departments.
Parents may examine:
- Gross motor skills (whole body physical activity)
- Fine motor skills (using scissors, holding pencils and crayons, puzzle or glue work)
- Academic skills (shape recognition, colour recognition, basic numeracy, basic literacy)
- Self care and hygiene (eating habits, hand washing, basic safety awareness)
- Social skills (emotional expression, ability to communicate, turn taking, separation anxiety)
- Physical capability (can they put on and remove their own clothing, put away their things, take care of their things)
- Personal information (do they know their name, age, names of parents)
Different states and territories
Here are the ‘cut offs’ for the different states and territories. These are the dates when students may begin schooling. Individual students can start earlier or later at the discretion of their caregivers.
- New South Wales – The first year of school (kindergarten) is the year they turn 5 by July 31. All students must attend primary school the year they turn 6.
- Victoria – The first year of school (prep) is the year they turn 5 by April 30.
- Queensland – The first year of school (prep) is the year they turn 5 by June 30.
- South Australia – The first year of school (reception) is the year they turn 5 by May 1.
- Western Australia – The first year of school (prep) is the year they turn 5 by June 30.
- Northern Territory – The first year of school (prep) is the year they turn 5 by June 30.
- Australian Capital Territory – The first year of school (kindergarten) is the year they turn 5 by April 30.
- Tasmania – The first year of school (prep) is the year they turn 5 by January 1. (Please note – this is currently under parliamentary review and is subject to change)
Are young children ready for school?
This is an important decision that is best made under consultation but with the needs of individuals at the forefront. Sometimes making the best choice for your family means not following the pack and looking for alternative solutions.
If your child is starting school, you can help calm those first day jitters and prepare them for school – read more.
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