June 6, 2018


There is much debate about what is the best age to start school. All around the country school starting ages vary slightly but in recent years waiting until the oldest age possible to start school has become more popular.

That means that across a cohort some children are only 4 whilst others are almost turning 6. That is quite a gap developmentally!

Age Is Only One Factor To Consider

When making the decision about when to start school I don’t recommend blanket statements regarding age alone as every child is so unique and some children start school at four and thrive, while others struggle. Age is an important factor but it is one factor amongst many other considerations such as social development, language development, independence and confidence.

Rather than looking at age in isolation think about other areas that can impact how happy and successful your child will be at school. For example, oral language skills are a huge indicator for academic success, and social skills are highly important because children with strong friendships are generally more confident and happy at school and this impacts on their learning.

How Independent Are They?

Also consider, independence and confidence, can they attempt new tasks on their own? Or are they able to follow multistep instructions when there is only one teacher to a possible thirty children to assist them? Can they ask for help?

Gender is another consideration

Of course every child is an individual but generally speaking boys often benefit from an extra year at preschool for a number of reasons. But in short, boys’ gross motor skills and physical capabilities tend to develop earlier than girls, however their fine motor skills and language often develop later than girls. They also produce less oxytocin than girls so many boys find it more challenging to sit still and focus so they often benefit from more time to engage in play-based learning.

The Leap To Kindergarten Is HUGE

Remember the leap from preschool to kindergarten is huge. The demands of kindergarten have changed dramatically even in the last five years. If you think kindergarten is all finger painting, singing and naps think again. It is increasingly academic, most children will be required to attempt a piece of writing and be involved in formal reading and mathematics lessons in the first week of school.

Why Starting A Child Too Early Can Be Detrimental

And there is growing evidence that holding off on formal learning until children are developmental ready in all areas is better in the long term, just as pushing children into formal learning before they are ready creates stress and anxiety. It is also detrimental to a child’s self-esteem and can turn them off learning altogether.

We also know that play-based learning which is generally what occurs in preschools is so beneficial for development in so many areas so really what is the rush to school if your child is still developing in certain areas?

Check The Trend

There are also implications for the back end of a child’s schooling to consider, for example a child who is a little more mature and confident may be better able to withstand peer pressure or bullying in high school. The flip side is if your child is the oldest in the grade and much more mature they may find socialising difficult. Ask the principal about the trend for starting age at your child’s future school, in some cases it might be better to go with the majority.

They Need To Be Ready In All Areas

Lastly just because your child is intelligent it doesn’t necessarily make them ready for school, again just like age, intelligence is one factor, take a holistic approach and consider all aspects of your child’s developmental together, if they are not ready in all areas than they are probably not ready.

You can’t rush development or speed up the process, they will be ready when they are ready. If you feel your child needs a little more time to develop in one area, then why not give them the time and space to do so? And remember you are the expert on your child, you know them better than anyone else.

If you feel they are not ready and they will benefit from another year at preschool rather than thinking of it as holding them back, think of it as starting when they are ready to learn!

About The Author

Karen Seinor is the author of Is My Child Ready For School? (New Holland Publishers RRP $19.99), an easy to follow guide for parents on all things school. It also provides tips on selecting a school, how to make a smooth and successful transition to school and, how to support your child in their first year of learning.
Available from all good book retailers or online www.newhollandpublishers.com

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  • Each child is different. Do whats right for you and your child and dont worry about what others are doing.


  • It all depends on the individual child, I sent my daughter at 4 turning 5 (march) she was very ready and has done amazing at school, my son I send 5 turning 6 (april) he is a smart fella but just wasn’t ready, he is currently in kindergarten and he doing great.


  • Most kids seem to know when they are ready for school themselves. Sometimes it’s a pity that the school then decides to keep them back a year because they are 4.5 starting at a later stage. That happened to my youngest and he was so upset because he was passing all his tests but kept back through age and he watched some of his mates who weren’t as good at school go up and leave him behind. Result: stopped learning as couldn’t see the point.


  • Not something that was a consideration for parents when my kids were starting school. My first was born in October, my second in November. I was told one of the reasons my first was struggling at school was because of his late in the year birth, he was so far behind the kids born in the first 6 months of the year. Yet my second, November baby had no issues whatsoever, she was in fact a grade+ ahead of her classmates for most of her school life. So it’s a really difficult thing to decide


  • I can’t believe this 13 years on and this is still so different from state to state. We sent our son to school at 4, turning 5 in April as our Vic cut off is April 30. All the signs from his preschool teacher etc. showed us he was right to go. And… I have followed the year below him his entire school life to see how that would have worked. Not! However, my son has just turned 17 in Year 12 when all his mates are turning 18, drinking, and getting their licences. What a mix – YEAR 12, ALCOHOL, DRIVING! I think we need to consider these broader issues.


  • Great article. My child isn’t anywhere near school age yet but this is something I have already thought about.


  • My eldest 2 were both 5 turning 6yr when starting kindy. Both were ready and are smart cookies. My 8yr old started when she was 4, turning 5 in the end of Feb. She too is a smart cookie and does academically very well. My youngest has Down syndrome and will start next year when she is 5yr. She’s totally not ready for Kindy (speaks for example 10 words or so, can’t draw a circle, let alone a letter) but yet has to start school next year. Most likely she’ll go to a mainstream school which runs special support classes (with max 8 children and 2 teachers).


  • Such a tricky topic of discussion.
    I have 4 kids. The first two are born in October and December so were sent to school after turning 5.
    My younger two, both boys, were born in May and June.
    I held both of them back
    It worked well for my son born in June. For my youngest born in May, I think he could have started without any issues at 4.5. He is a lot more confident and socially he struggled forming friendships with younger kids in the first couple of years.
    By grade 2, it’s really difficult to pick the youngest in the class.
    My personal philosophy is that the older you can start your child the better …. not for the early years of schooling but for being that bit more mature when they sit the HSC.
    I’ve also witnessed some families sending their kids to school at 4…. the kids aren’t ready and the decision to do so is based on financial circumstances. Public school and after school care is a bit cheaper than full time day care


  • I think 4 is too young even if they are ready, my fiancé started at 4 and he is saying he was seen differently to older kids and was left out when he was a teen because of being younger when they all started going to parties.


  • The parents are the only people that can asses and know when their child is ready to start school


  • So hard to set a level bar for all children to set under. Parents would undoubtedly be biased and the government can’t tell me how or when my child is ready for school


  • I don’t necessarily think that gender is a real consideration because every kid is different. I do agree that at the latest the starting age should be the year they turn 6 and if they’re not ready by their kindy (preschool) year then interventions should be sought. I think we need to do away with the birthday requirement too. My eldest was ready during her kindy year and had to wait because shes a June baby. Didnt do her major harm really because now shes been bumped from G1 to working with G2s but she should have had the option based on her readiness not her birthday. Kids born 2 months earlier who were not ready entered school that same year.


  • Good points but I am unsure what signs to look out for in my son but he’s too young for it.


  • My first four children started when the age was ready. My youngest two twins have different starting ages. My youngest daughter is doing Prep as she wants to while her brother needs to wait another year. This was a hard decision being twins but it is what is in their best interest. My son is being home schooled as he can not handle the classroom as well as his sister can. So next year we try again and if not still ready will be home schooled again


  • Good sensible approach. All kids are different and we need to look at what is best for each child.


  • I think most parents would be able to assess if their child is ready for school.


  • There’s no point children starting school until they seem mostly ready as otherwise it becomes a waste of time. They settle in a bit but are anxious, cry easily, clingy and don’t learn as well. School readiness varies between 5 and 6 years old for most students I teach.


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