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Every year parents agonise over the right time to send their kids to school. Due to the cut-off dates for starting school in some states, kids can either start kindergarten at 4 years old turning 5 in the first year or else one year older at 5 years old, turning 6.

It’s been the growing trend over the last few years to hold kids back from starting school until they are on the older side of the scale. The question of whether you should send early or late pops up regularly on social media without fail. In most cases, the majority of parents recommend giving kids an extra year of play, as opposed to sending them to school early. Teachers and other educational experts often weigh into the debate and while they emphasise that each child is different, most will recommend sending when the child is more mature.

While more experienced parents say that you won’t ever regret holding back your child, one mum confided that she had chosen to keep her child back from starting school and regretted it.

No Long Term Academic Advantage

While the research into the effects of sending your child early or later to school fluctuates, a recent study has found that there is zero “long-term academic advantage gained from holding a child back from starting school,” as reported in SMH.

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Kids who started school earlier were slightly behind in reading and maths after three years, but this disadvantage diminished in years 5 and 7 and by year, it had disappeared completely and measured the same level as their peers, said University of New England researcher Sally Larsen.

Age Is Not The Major Factor When It Comes To Success

Ms Larsen said that these results indicated that the learning in the school has more impact on literacy and numeracy than age differences.

This recent study used data to examine whether delayed school entry was associated with higher achievement in NAPLAN reading and numeracy tests.

“We interpret it as time spent in school is doing what it’s supposed to be doing, so those relative age differences matter less,” said Ms Larsen, who is a PhD candidate.

“They’re getting the same content, so whatever maturity advantage the older kids have, the other kids do catch up,” she added.

BUT…Each Child Is Different

Despite this new research, parents need to evaluate their children as individuals as each child is different.

Let’s have a quick look at the pro’s and cons of each option:

Positives to a delayed start:

  • They are more mature.
  • They are the oldest in the classroom.
  • They perform better academically.
  • They have more confidence.

Negatives to a delayed start:

  • It can be hard if all your child’s friends start school and he or she is left behind.
  • They might get irritated with their younger peers in the class.
  • The advantage the child had at the beginning of their school careers will eventually fade when the other kids start catching up.

It can be overwhelming for parents, however, you know your child best. You know what your child is capable of. You have seen your child at their best and at their worst. It is important to trust yourself and your instinct as a parent.

When In Doubt…Give Them An Extra Year Of Play

Dr. Nadia Louw, Educational Psychologist says that when you are in doubt, keep them back.

She says that as parents you might feel like you are giving your child an academic edge, but it can cause untold damage if they are not ready for formal education. “It is like forcing a little fledgling from the nest before its wings are fully developed.”

“The impact on the child’s academic self-concept and ability to learn can be great. So parents have to think carefully when making this decision.” She also says every child is different and it really depends on them.

Did you send your child to school early or did you give them an extra year of play? Have you found that it has had a significant impact on them either way? Tell us in the comments below.

 

  • It’s really all about the child as each is an individual and then make the choice from there.

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  • I had one start late and one start early, only time will tell

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  • I’ve often wondered why you can hold your kids back here in Australia as it’s not a thing in the UK, and kids go to school at 4 or early 5

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  • I sent mine to school before he turned 5 because he was ready and bored at kinder

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  • Totally agree with the each child is different comment. Some children are so ready to start and other will cope better if they start later. Sometime you don’t get the choice as there is a cut off date and if your child’s birthday doesn’t fall before the cut off they have to wait. My youngest was sooo ready to start.

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  • I send my son early.At first i was worried about as he left behind from learning when he was in primary.But now he is fine.

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  • Sent my son early at 4 turning 5 and what a mistake that was, my darling son has a learning disability that couldn’t be correctly diagnosed till part way through year 1.
    Learnt my lesson, my daughter started on time for 5 turning 6 and I’ll do the same for my second son.

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  • My children are on the younger end of the scale and we didn’t keep them back. One child thrived with the social and educational side whilst my youngest struggle through prep and grade 1 and seemed to have caught up during home schooling through covid. It was the break she needed. We did the school work from home and reading everyday as always but she improved drastically in that time of not being at school for 6 hrs a day. Certainly depends on the child and a parent has to go with their gut if they think they are ready or not.

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  • I’m not sure what I will do, my son is born in october so I think he would be 4 and 3 months when he starts. It all depends on how he is at that stage in his life

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  • My eldest is a January baby, so she turned 4 and started kinder the next week. She was the youngest in her group and was very clingy. We we’re advised in first term that she would most likely need an 2nd year. It is alot mentally for a parent to accept, you wonder if you could be doing more. Once we wrapped our heads around the fact that she was a smart kid, but just young and not ready yet we were fine. Her 2nd year of 4 year old kinder was the best thing we did for her. The change in her was huge. She gained so much confidence.

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  • I sent my son to school when he was 4 turning 5 (in April). Our Victorian cut off is April 30. It has its pros and cons. As an only child, he was so ready. Even his preschool teacher thought so. He was later diagnosed with Aspergers, aged 10 so throughout his primary schooling we had many issues to deal with. Were they because he started school young? No, I don’t believe so. I think his nature and sensitive personality, and finally a late diagnosis, opened him up to extreme bullying. That was less about his younger age, and more about others.

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  • I just think it absolutely depends on the child!!!! Especially the April babies

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  • If parents have been holding back younger children that they don’t feel are ready whilst others are sending them because they are ready and young, it would have skewed the results in favour of these findings.
    The only way you could truely know is if you studied only children whose parents thought that they should have been held back and still sent them with children who were held back.

    Reply

  • I never knew there was an option. I thought they started school the year they turned 5, no ifs buts or maybes

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  • I was one of the youngest in my year at school. I think it was a disadvantage in a lot of ways. You also are only 17 when you finish. I suppose I had an extra year up my sleeve if I needed it. But I’ll be sending my children when they are 5 turning 6. I think academically they do perform better than the younger ones.

    Reply

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