Is your child ready to start school?

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  Published on Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Is your child ready to start school?

Library Home  >  General Information on Child CareParenting & Family Life
  Published on Wednesday, 31 October 2018
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Deciding when to enrol your child in school can be a tricky decision. Your youngster must turn five by the cut-off date in your State or Territory, but this leaves a degree of wriggle room, with some children starting school when they’re four-and-a-half and others as old as six.

There are also personal decisions at play. Birthdates allowing, some parents may hold their child back a year to enjoy more play-based learning at child care, while others are keen to make the big school transition.

Either way, research shows that youngsters who begin school when they're developmentally ready to learn, generally do better in their formal education. So how do you know whether to keep your child in care or move them to school next year?

Well, aside from trusting your judgment and speaking with your child's early childhood educator, you can also follow the Australian Government’s advice around 'school readiness'. Here we look at their pointers, which will help you decide whether the time is right for school enrolment.

What is meant by 'school readiness'?

Going to primary school isn't just about how well your preschooler can write their name or change into a uniform. With big school comes long days spent concentrating, communicating and following instructions, so think about your child’s development overall.

According to the Government, 'School readiness is a measure of the knowledge, skills and behaviours that enable children to participate and succeed in school,' so as well as having the physical skills that will get them through the school day, kids also need certain social, emotional, communication and cognitive skills.

How can you tell if your child is ready for school?

Every child is different, and to help you gauge whether your preschooler should stay in child care for another year or be enrolled in Kindergarten/Prep, here are six 'school readiness' questions to consider:

  1. What are your child's social skills like?
    Think about how well your child gets along with other kids, and whether they can show basic manners, engage in independent and group play, and assert themselves. Child care is a great place to learn these behaviours, so consider how your preschooler's current social skills would translate in the school environment.
  2. How emotionally mature is your child?
    Starting school is a big move in terms of your child’s headspace and physical environment, so consider how well they can follow instructions, focus on tasks, understand rules and manage their emotions. At school, they'll also need to cope with a higher student to teacher ratio than at child care.
  3. What are their language skills like?
    At school, your child will be communicating with teachers and classmates, so part of their readiness involves being able to speak clearly, explain their needs, listen, understand and start to identify some letters and sounds.
  4. How developed are their cognitive skills?
    Although your child doesn't need to be counting to a hundred in their head, consider whether they have basic thinking skills and number sense, along with the ability to take turns and wait.
  5. How coordinated and physically healthy are they?
    The school day involves fine motor skills, such as page-turning and pencil-gripping, and coordinated gross motor skills, like running, jumping and climbing, so think about how well your preschooler can move and control their body.
  6. How independent are they?
    To be school ready, your child also needs to be able to do practical things with less grown-up supervision, like going the toilet without help, opening and closing their lunchbox and looking after their belongings.

If you're not sure whether your child is school ready, then it's a great idea to speak with your early childhood educator, who'll be able to offer advice and assessment.

How can you help your preschooler prepare for school?

Whether they move to school in the new year or stay in child care for a little longer, there are several things you can do to help your child get ready for big school, including:

  • Conversing with them - asking questions, listening to them and encouraging your child to express themselves
  • Regularly reading with your child
  • Encouraging a basic awareness of numbers at home such as counting cutlery or measuring ingredients
  • Playing board and card games
  • Arranging play dates with children who will be going to their school
  • Practising their fine motor skills with drawing
  • Encouraging independence in dressing and toileting

This child care article was last reviewed or updated on Monday, 27 July 2020

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