Recently, Sarah Mitchell, the Minister of Education for NSW, proposed that all children enrol in school the year they turn six.
Currently, if a child's birthdate is before July 31 and they want to start school, they can do so in the year that they turn five. They also need to be enrolled before the age of six. This means that students in a kindergarten class, which is the first year of school in NSW, could be between the ages of four and a half and six. For teachers and schools, this wide age range and the developmental variations among young children of all ages create several difficulties.
Cut-offs vary in other states, which just makes things more confusing. It is April 30 in Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory; May 1 in South Australia; June 30 in Queensland and the Northern Territory In Tasmania, a kid must begin their first year of school if they turn five on or before January 1.
Boys in particular are frequently "held back" by their parents so that they can begin school the year they turn six. However, a lot of families do not have this option. Families in high-income areas have been found to be more prone to hold their children back, according to research from Australia and other countries. Families in low-income communities are more likely to enrol their children in school as soon as possible. They no longer have to pay high daycare costs, which is another issue with access to early childhood education in their area.
The household budget, therefore, plays a significant role in the decision of whether or not a child is "ready".
According to data from the federal department of education, more than 20% of kids are vulnerable at the beginning of school. This indicates that they are falling behind in developmental milestones like language and cognitive, emotional, or social growth. Only 54.8% are regarded as “developmentally on track”. We know children who start school developmentally behind are likely to be from socio-economically disadvantaged areas. This disparity needs to be addressed if we want children to start school on a level playing field, whatever their age.
This is why good quality, affordable, and accessible early childhood education is so important. But again here, access is not equal. The growth of preschool programmes in Australia, according to a new study, "has not better prepared" children for school. Before starting school, children should attend two years of high-quality preschool, according to education experts. Although NSW and Victoria have announced intentions for two years, the majority of Australian states only support one year. All youngsters will eventually take the ACT for two years.
Currently, low-income, rural, and regional locations are more prone to experience "childcare deserts," where there are more than three children for every open spot. In comparison to more privileged locations, services in these areas are also more likely to be operating below basic quality standards. Additionally, it is known that children who reside in underprivileged communities are less likely to attend preschool (called kinder in Victoria).
Why is preschool such a big deal? Children who get high-quality, play-based early childhood education have the best chance of succeeding in school. Children learn naturally via play. It develops the positive character traits—curiosity, flexibility, problem-solving, confidence, and resilience—that we all need in both our professional and personal lives. Children can explore, learn, and form connections while they play. It aids in the growth of their social, linguistic, emotional control, language, and motor skills. A focus on "school readiness" may, however, overwhelm this. Instead of fostering children's independence and confidence, this results in a focus on a limited set of abilities like learning letters and numbers.
An idea that could require more support. Therefore, the notion of beginning school at age six is a good one, but it needs to be supported by providing all children with free, great early childhood education that is built on play. Governments will also need to invest a lot of money on this. So while starting school at age six is a fantastic concept, it must be accompanied by universal access to free, excellent early childhood education that is based on play.
A Push To Raise The School Starting Age To 6 Sounds Like Good News For Parents, But There’s A Catch, The Conversation