Should There Be a National School Starting Age?

  • Parents Only

As parents, there is a lot to think about when it comes to educating your children. What type of school should they go to? Are you in the right catchment area for your preferred school? Should they go public or private? But in Australia, there is an added challenge. With no specific age for starting school, it can be anything from four to six years old, and it is down to the parents to decide when their child is “ready” to start school.

On top of that, each state has different rules. So children in New South Wales, for example, are able to start school a whole seven months before children in Tasmania. Is this a benefit to those children who start earlier? Or are they thrust into a formal learning environment before they are ready?

'You Must Be 5 Years Old'

This dilemma has caused many Australians, including the Australian Childcare Alliance, to call for a national school starting age to be decided. Paul Mondo from the Alliance believes there should be a national requirement that children must be at least five years of age by January 1 in their first year of school.

This is not a new debate, the Australian Principals' Association called for a national school starting age back in 2015.

Stricter guidelines would take the decision-making pressure off parents and allow teachers to better cater to their classes, which would have a smaller age range of children in them. Currently, there can be an age gap of over 12 months in Australian classrooms — which with children as young as four and five can create huge differences in ability and understanding. It seems, however, as if there is no answer that will please everyone. In countries such as England where there are more defined rules for starting school, parents of premature and developmentally delayed children born just before the cut off for the year (meaning their children are the youngest in the class) are arguing for more flexibility.

What do you think, should there be a national starting age for school children? 

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