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Starting school – is your child ready?

As 2017 enters its second half, thousands of schools have opened up their enrolments for kindergarten 2018. But while your child may be the eligible age to enter school next year, how do you know if they’re really ready?

For many parents the answer to this question is far from clear cut, and the next few months will be spent weighing up the pros and cons of their child starting school next year.

So, here’s a quick guide to ensuring your child is ready to embark on 13 years of learning adventure.

The technicalities

In NSW the first year of official schooling is kindergarten, and children are eligible to start kindergarten if they turn five before July 31 that year.

However, for a variety of reasons including family circumstances and emotional maturity, starting school at four may not be best for your son or daughter. In which case the law allows an extra year, with all students required to be in formal education by the time they turn six.

Readiness

According to experts whether or not to start school comes down to far more than academic ability. In other words just because a child can tell their colours or count to 20, it doesn’t mean they’re ready for school.

Instead school readiness is about listening to instructions, emotional maturity and solid social skills like the ability to share.

But there’s more to ponder, including practicalities. Can your child dress themselves, toilet themselves independently, and mix with other people?

There’s also the future to consider far beyond next year. This includes envisaging how your child might fare in high school or Year 12 as a younger member of the class.

Three main areas

Experts further note there are three main areas to take into account as you weigh up sending your child to school.

They include: social ability, independence, and ability to concentrate.

Social ability

It may be about learning but school is largely a social affair. During class and breaks students are required to share, work with others and communicate their ideas.

They need an ability to empathise, stand up for themselves and take turns at activities. This requires an emotional maturity that enables them to make friends, consider others and work as a team.

Meanwhile how well do they cope with frustration? Have they to some degree mastered their emotions when things don’t go their way?

Independence

No child is expected to transition from the comforts of home or day care without the occasional glitch, but they do need an element of independence under their belt. This includes the ability to dress and toilet themselves, take care of their belongings and separate from their primary caretaker.

The latter takes longer with some children than others, but if separation anxiety is a major issue in your family, then another year outside the rigors of school might be just what they need.

Ability to concentrate

In many ways a classroom is only as good as its weakest link. And while some children, regardless of their age, will require additional assistance, if your child has not yet mastered the skills of voicing their needs, taking direction and undertaking required tasks, this may mean they need additional time before they start school.

Questions to ask

Education consultant Kathy Walker told Kidspot  there are a series of questions parents can ask to gauge whether their child is ready for school.

They include:

          Can they make an independent decision and follow through on this?

          Do they have ideas of their own?

          Can they follow two or three instructions at the same time?

          Can they move on to new activities easily?

          Do they separate well from their carer?

          Do they show interest in other kids?

          Do they interact with other children?

          Can they recognise and express their feelings and needs?

          Can they concentrate on a task?

          How do they deal with frustration?

Who to talk to

While parents make the ultimate decision, there are a number of people available to talk to who are positioned well to help you decide if your child is ready for school.

And your preschool teacher is probably the best resource. With a background in early childhood education they can tell you where your child may flounder or excel in the formal academic realm, and whether now is the right time for them to start this adventure.

Meanwhile, parents should back their intuition. If you feel your child is not ready, then investigate this instinct.

The intended school is also a good source of information, while open days provide the opportunity to see how well your child interacts and how comfortable they are with their prospective surrounds.

About Chalkwall

We’ve been sharing the education adventure with primary and secondary school students for over 25 years. You can learn more about our tutoring services here, or contact us for further advice.