By Alkira Early Learning Centre
The journey of development from preschool to the world of formal schooling is an important step in a young child’s life. Many parents are faced with an emotional decision of how their young child will cope with this transition and whether to send their child at the earliest allowed age of four and a half years. As Early Childhood Educators, we strongly advocate that all children start Kindergarten in the year they turn six. This recommendation is supported by research, widely favoured by Primary School Teachers and enforced by many private schools. In NSW, children with birthdays on or before July 31st have the option of starting school at four and a half to five years or five and a half to six years old. This is the difference between a child being the oldest or the youngest in their year group, and there are many implications of this ‘choice’ as every child will show their readiness for kindergarten in their own time, irrespective of their age.
The academic expectations of kindergarten students from the educational system have increased significantly over time and kindergarten curriculum requirements are far less play-based than early childhood settings. This has led to a trend for children to start school later to better cope with these pressures and give them the best possible start to their formal schooling journey. It is also important to note that schools very rarely ‘repeat’ children anymore, as the social consequences and sense of failure children feel from being repeated is more detrimental to their learning and mental health. Instead, children progress on their own personalised continuum of the curriculum that teachers customise to their ability. Therefore, the decision as to when to start school has implications for the next 13 years of formal schooling. If a child’s brain isn’t ready to cope, learning may be a difficult and frustrating experience, resulting in children disengaging and losing confidence in themselves and hampering their eagerness to learn. There is also a significant difference in the fine motor skills acquired between a five- and six-year-old and as these skills are crucial for the handwriting expectation of kindergarten, many children fall behind as they struggle to complete writing tasks. Kindergarten teachers confidently voice the many advantages of starting children later, and the clear detriments of sending them too early.
There is a huge misconception that school readiness is determined by the academic skills children possess or being intellectually ready. The main predictor of a successful transition to school is independence. This means that children can go through the day with little assistance. The success of a child’s kindergarten transition is heavily dependent on their ability to socialise appropriately, resolve conflict, make friends, share and self-regulate. For children to learn effectively, it is important that they can work within an organised structure with others, sit still and concentrate for extended periods of time and follow instructions. Children who are six years of age in kindergarten are more likely to have the maturity, attention span and emotional readiness for school.
At Alkira ELC, we acknowledge that children’s lives are greatly influenced by their early years and provide an environment that nurtures each child to reach their full potential. Our role in preparing children to be ready for school is to foster a love for learning, inspire curious and involved learners, support their ability to make friends, be inclusive and participate in social settings and instil the confidence and independence to thrive.
Although it does feel like a big decision, you don’t need to feel like it is one you have to make entirely on your own. The Educators at your Childcare setting, your Kindergarten Teacher and School Principal are experts and will be able to guide and support your decision. Although children may cope attending a formal school setting at four and a half, one must ask…do I want my child to survive or thrive at school?