Starting school age can be such a contentious issue for parents especially if they have children born in the months Jan – April. For parents of children born in these months it can be a tough decision as they feel their child might be too old or too young starting school.
Social versus academic
A lot of parents will say to me their child is very bright or knows their letters etc and because of this they feel the child is ready for school. I would always advise to focus more on the social/emotional maturity rather than the academics. Generally, Junior infant teachers will hope their students are older rather than younger starting school – they can manage handling their lunchbox, putting on and off coats and using the toilet better when they are that little bit older.
Through my @askateacher.ie Instagram, many parents have reported to me that they have regretted starting their child too young. Initially they found their child started well but as the years went on, their child struggled to keep up with their peers socially and were often very immature starting post-primary school. The majority of parents have told me that waiting until their child had turned 5 was the best decision they made. They felt that their child was able to cope and manage situations well being that bit older. Equally, the majority of parents have told me that they regretted starting their child too young.
Staying back a year
Some parents are under the impression that staying back a year in infants may be an option if they started too young. However, repeating a grade is only sanctioned for children with exceptional learning difficulties. Being “too young” is not a reason that is accepted for holding a child back a year. So it really is important to make the right decision at the beginning.
Rule of thumb
A good rule of thumb is for the child to be 5 or turning 5 the year they start. For example, starting school at four but turning 5 in Sept/Oct/Nov/Dec.
Skills to have before starting School
I always encourage parents to focus on a few key skills to work on before starting school. These are:
· Putting on and taking off their coats.
· Opening and closing their lunchbox – and generally managing their food.
· Recognising their name: They do not need to know how to read or write at all.
· Putting books in and taking out of school bag.
· Opening and closing schoolbag
· Using the toilet by themselves.
Every child is unique.
Every child is different though and some are more mature and advanced socially and emotionally than others at a younger age. I think deep down, parents know best. Once they are focusing on the social/emotional side, they will know if their child is ready for school.