Here’s how to tell if your child is ready to start school

It is almost time to start enrolling your child into big school if they’re making the move next year. Knowing if they are ready and trying to help them prepare can be daunting so we’ve grabbed some expert advice to help.

There is no shortage of opinion on what age a child should go to school and, while the laws in Australia vary from state-to-state, parents are left with some room to lock in a start date.

Depending the month of your child’s birthday, you could choose to start them in the year they turn five or wait until they are closer to turning six.

So how can you tell if your child is ready to start school or would benefit from being held back?

Early Childhood Australia general manager Judy Kynaston tells Babyology a child’s ability to read, write or count makes little difference to whether or not they are ready to transition to primary school.

“Often there is an emphasis on, ‘can they write their own name or can they recognise letters’, but really what families and parents need to be looking at is the social and emotional skills that children have,” Judy says.

“The children who are most likely to make a positive start to school are the ones that feel comfortable, relaxed and valued.

“They’re already feeling fairly confident about themselves, they feel excited and motivated to learn and also have good relationships with others and they can develop a sense of belonging within the school community.”

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She says even children who have had a lot of time in childcare and preschool environments can struggle at primary school if they aren’t ready.

“Those social and emotional skills are quite critical in moving into that more structured environment where it is more routine around bells, and often a much larger environment than they might have been used to,” Judy says.

“It is hard to be definitive about an age, just because a child turns a certain age doesn’t necessarily mean they are functioning at a level where they actually have those skills.

“It’s about looking at how that child is within those social and emotional skills and how much independence they have with those self-help skills, and how much responsibility they can handle.”

Judy says children who are generally anxious will likely need more help from parents to prepare for the transition to school.

“If a child is anxious normally, they need lots of reassurance and lots of discussion about what to expect from that school day,” she says.

“It’s the uncertainty and the unknown that will often be the things that start to build up anxiety within the child and have them feeling not ready to cope.”

Here are some of the questions Judy suggests parents consider when deciding if their child is ready for school.

Social

  • Can they form friendships easily?
  • Do they know how to introduce themselves to a child they don’t know?
  • Do they know how to make an appropriate approach to play with children they don’t know?

Independent

  • Can they put on their own shoes and their own jacket and do they know when to take them off?
  • Can they manage their own lunchbox?

Responsible

  • Do they understand what looking after their own belongings is about? If they take their jacket off in the playground because they get hot running around, do they know to put it somewhere they can get it again?
  • Do they know how to keep their belongings safe?

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