Is my child ready to start school?

Teachers talk about how parents can decide if their child is ready to start Kindergarten.

At a glance

  • Children may enrol in Kindergarten at the beginning of the school year if they turn five years of age on or before 31 July in that year.
  • All children must be enrolled in school by their sixth birthday.
  • Are they physically ready?
  • Are they socially and emotionally ready?
  • Kids don't need to read or write before they start school.
  • Visit your local school and attend orientation days before you decide.
Is your child ready to start school?

Starting school is such a big step. How do I know if my child is ready?

Anna Parella
Children can start school as early as four years and nine months. They need to be five by the end of July, or they can hold off starting school until their sixth year.

Teachers are trained to teach children at the age level in which they come in, but the choice is up to parents whether they feel that their child should start at four-and-a-half or six.

Elizabeth Vincent
It's always difficult when you've got a child who's got an April birthday. April, May, June, because they're quite young to start and parents wonder whether to keep them at preschool for another year or keep them at home for another year.

Debra van Aanholt
The three main things that I look at are obviously age, their social skills and how they cope with changes.

Because all children are different, they didn't all crawl at the same age, they didn't all walk at the same age, they didn't all speak at the same age – and the same thing happens with children at school.

You might get five or six children who are five in January, and are going to start school, but they're all at different levels.

Kerrie Shaw
Well from personal experience, I had two children who turned five in February and another son who turned six in June, and legally we could have sent our middle child to school, but he was not ready emotionally or socially to attend school.

So we delayed his start until he was five, turning six in his first year of school, and he had a much more successful start to school.

Michael Windred
Sometime if you start them too early, they're not mature enough at the other end, ready for the complexity of study in the HSC.

That worries me if our children aren't emotionally and academically ready for that.      

Elizabeth Vincent
Sometimes girls are ready a bit earlier than boys, but I've found that if they are a little bit unsettled at preschool sometimes when they start a routine at school, they actually work very well because there's a set routine.

Anna Parella
Starting school for a small child is physically demanding. They need to be able to cope with a full day at school. Often you'll find they'll come home and they'll be falling asleep at dinner time, that's absolutely normal.

Elizabeth Vincent
Well, there are a number of things we like children to be able to do so they don't ever have to feel embarrassed.

Leanne Batho
Can your child dress themselves, can they leave their shoes on, can they pack up their gear?       

Elizabeth Vincent
Getting them used to using toilets, not their home toilet. So going in and locking the door and for boys to be able to use a urinal.

Sometimes little children don't know where to stand and they stand in the urinal rather than in front of it.  

Leanne Batho
Socially have they left mum? Are they able to take turns? Are they able to share?

Anna Parella
Your child would need to feel comfortable mixing with children, be able to play in their games, know how to interrupt games, know how to include others into their games.         

Debra van Aanholt
Speaking nicely to other children if something happens and they get upset about it. Knowing how to deal with that situation – and I mean in a four-and-a-half to five year old level, I don't mean in an eight or nine year old level.                

Anna Parella
Children do not need to be able to read and write before they start school.

Leanne Batho
The things you can give your child before they start school are good social skills.  They need to be able to talk and they need to be able to listen. The reading and the writing are what I teach them when they come to school.

If they have a bit of a turn with letters and numbers or whatever, that's great, but the best skills they can have is being able to listen and being able to speak.        

Debra van Aanholt
You need your children to be able to hold a pencil, to get them to use not just pencils but crayons and paints and clay and playdough and all those things that will help them write well when they do come to school.                 

Elizabeth Vincent
Most schools will have a little look at children on their orientation days. Most schools in NSW these days have a couple of preparation days, one or two, where children come along.

Debra van Aanholt
I always say to parents it's a really good idea to visit the school you think you're going to send your child to. Go along, ring them up and say, "I'd like to come and have a look". Go for a walk-through, bring your child along and you'll get the idea whether you're going to be comfortable there – whether your child's going to be comfortable there.                                                                                   

There's more information about starting school at School A to Z including a  free downloadable booklet called Getting ready for school.


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