How old should kids be to start school?

The biggest debate when it comes to sending kids to school

With most school enrolments now in place for 2021, many parents may be feeling anxious over their decision to send or not send their child to school. Some fear the wrong choice may negatively impact their child's academic and social development.

The recent trend has been to hold children back; so much so that it is now almost frowned upon to send a child before they are well and truly five and a large percentage of kindergarten children are closer to six when they start school. But chronological age should not be the only consideration. Boys, for example, are often slower to develop and mature than girls. A child's place in the family can also make a difference: second and later children may be more resilient and independent as a result of less anxious parenting and older siblings to emulate.

How to make a decision? Experts suggest watching them play, sit and interact. As school requires students to follow routines, maintain an appropriate attention span, work independently and socialise well with others, it is important that children display these skills.

Research of parents uncover a variety of reasons for holding children back. Social immaturity is a major factor but a lot have based their decision on the trend to hold back. They report that did not want their child to be the youngest and therefore socially and academically disadvantaged, even if pre-school assessments may have deemed them to be ready for school.

Children turning five in the early months of the year (January to April) are now often considered too young when they are, in fact, the correct age. If a child is not quite five but can follow directions, co-operate with others, manage personal possessions and display no obvious learning difficulties, they could well be school ready. Young children are sponges with more capacity to learn in the early years than any other time in their lives. You'll need to provide a stimulating home environment if you decide to keep those children from school another year.

Parents know their children best, so don't be afraid to trust your gut. But if you are still unsure, ask the experts. If your child has attended a pre-school, the teacher will be able to provide an educated opinion based on observation. Most schools also have orientation visits where they can assess a child's readiness.

  • Janine Brown is a northern beaches-based education expert, parent and teacher. She has a Bachelor of Education and a Masters in Philosophy.