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Experts call for a national standard school starting age for our children.

The Australian Institute of Family Studies tracked 5,000 children born in 1999 and 2000 in a national study, and the results found one in six children across the country are being held back from starting school as soon as they are able to.

Kathy Walker an education consultant from Early Life Foundations says parents are concerned about their child’s readiness for school. She is pushing for a minimum start age of five years.

“I’ve been talking, writing and researching about readiness for school for about 25 years and I have to tell you it’s one of the most provocative, anxiety-making issues,” she said.

Meanwhile Professor Helen McGrath from Deakin University’s School of Education said that starting younger could actually be an advantage.

“Children who do better in years seven, eight, nine and 10 across the board are those who are actually young when they start school at the younger end of the age eligible range,” Professor McGrath said.

“This may be because they’re like younger siblings in families, more motivated to keep up with the other kids who are older than them, or it may be that they simply have the advantage of learning from the older students.”

In South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory, children must turn five by the end of June; in Victoria and the ACT the cut-off date is at the end of April; while in Tasmania it is January 1.

Do you think there needs to be a shake up with our schools? What age do you think our little ones should head off to school? Share your thoughts below.

Main image source: Shutterstock
  • It should be 5. My little one hasn’t started yet but my nephew started at 4 and while he is very bright academically and socially, his focus and attention isn’t great. There are kids in his class that are nearly seven. Ridiculous! There should be a set starting date (not in the middle of the year) and age.

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  • YES!
    My daughter is born late August. We’re in QLD so she will not be able to go to school until she is 6. I have friends who are prep and grade 1 teachers who have told me how bright my daughter is already at 3.5yo. Bit worried about her when she finally gets to school, whether the teacher will be able to keep her attention. I wish they would have just left it how it was!

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  • I believe there should be a national starting age. Otherwise parents can choose to send children to school too early, not always in the child’s best interests. Or they may delay starting them at school when they would benefit from starting at the “normal” age. In SA they could start the following 1/2 year after their 5th birthday. I know 2 sisters (not twins) who both started mid year. One loved it so much she wanted to go back too soon after surgery, and had to have an early checkup to do so. Using this method some children spend longer in reception / preschool than others do. I think it is next year that all pupils start at the beginning of the school year following their 5th birthday or before the cut-off date if they turn 5 in that time. It means some are nearly 6 years old before they start school. It is either going to put more pressure on kindergatens or children are going to start later than 4 years old. If necessary children will go to daycare for a longer length of time too. By being a national standard if you have to move interstate your children are going to a class that should be at the same or very similar level – not near enough to a year different and have trouble either catching up or being bored becuase they could really need to be in a higher grade. Looking to the future employers tend to employ younger ones as wages are lower.

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  • I think children should start school when their ready. My daughter missed our stares cut off by one month so instead of starting school just before Turing 4 she starts it just before 5, thus is no big deal but what annoys me is that she is well and truely ready for school. She is the second out of the four and she had picked up so much from her older brother who just finished prep.

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  • I have dealt with education in three different states and yes it is confusing. A standard across Australia is needed. I am glad that WA now has yr 7 as high school makes it easier to transfer if we have to transfer to another state. The names used are confusing at times and so how classes are arranged. My oldest daughter was in HS in VIC then when we came back to WA was expected to attend primary. With discussion with the HS here she was placed in yr8 as we also agreed it would not do to put her in yr7 primary. Lucky she was mature enough for this change. My children are born at different times of the year, some of the older ones needed to be held back while another one needed to go ahead our first time here in WA.

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  • Yessss!!! We have moved interstate 4 times and the difference in education levels between states is incredible. Now in WA and my grandson is held back a year for being born 5 days after the cut off. Its very frustrating to say the least

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  • National starting age is a fantastic idea. Not forgetting though that this is a State issue with a Federal overlay. On this type of thing agreement should be reasonably obtainable. Whatever date is chosen, some of the children in the class will be older than others, despite this, they are all ready in their own way.

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  • Yes yes yes!!! It’s so confusing having different starting ages and cut off dates. I think there should be a national age and the cut off date should be Dec 31st as a previous poster said.

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  • All children are different – when they start school would depend on the child and the parents.

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  • I know people who kept their kids down and for some it helped and others not. I say start them off and if they need to be kept down later they can. You don’t want them to be 20 and still in high school.

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  • The cut off in SA is actually turning 5 before May 1, not end of June as the article states. My son turned 5 on 21 May. He is definitely ready for school now! I would like to see a national standard.

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  • There should be a national age and cut off date, but why can’t they make it the cut off date December 31! It’s too confusing having the cut off during the year! Much simpler if the kids in the same grade at school were born in the same year!

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  • I think children should already be 5 when they start school. The cut off age was end of June when my youngster started and she turned 5 on 26/6. She was always behind in her maturity even though she kept up with what she was required to do in learning skills. I think she is still immature to this day and she is now in her 40’s.

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  • I already thought we had this. I didn’t even realise parents could choose to jot send their kids if they thought they weren’t ready. I started school the year I turned 6. My kids started when the year they turned 5. I was never told I could choose to keep them them hone, nor did I stop to think they were ready, sone never are!

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  • I think while it would be great to have standardisation across Australia, there are a lot of logistics involved. We already have the NAPLAN testing with fans and critics. And for Queensland, we saw a change to starting age with the end of preschool and the introduction of Prep in 2006 and a change to Year 7 into High School in 2015. My daughter was in the last preschool year, and my son in the first Year 7 High School intake. Our next two children will have the benefit of an education curriculum that has been in place for a few years, and have any bugs ironed out. Too many changes too often may be too much.

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