Published On: Mon, Sep 3rd, 2012

Cut Off Kids And Kindergarten

Danielle Mantakoul

Danielle Mantakoul

BA of Ed Early Childhood and Editor at Mummy Weekly
She's described as one of the most engaging & dynamic speakers in the early childhood industry today, now having educated hundreds of thousands of parents & teachers. She has lectured for organisations such as KU Children’s Services, Only About Children, Qantas, National Australia Bank, Child Protection Australia, Goodstart and hundreds of council & private centres. She also developed and ran the popular parenting series for the Australian Financial Review.
Danielle Mantakoul

Cut Off Kids And KindergartenParents everywhere are starting to chit chat about what schools their kids will be going to next year. Some though are still undecided if they are even sending or not, and starting to feel the pressure to make the decision.

Cut off kids are those kids I call who’s birthday sits close to the cut off time that they can start school. Cut off kids differ in age simply because there are variations with school start times across Australia. States and territories call their own shots when it comes to what age kids can start formal schooling.

In NSW, kids that are born in January/February, the going to school decision tends to be taken away from you by where their birthday falls. With those born in March and April, I say it’s good to ask the question if they are ready or not, rather than simply sending them because you can. Those born after April however. You must ask the question, as a lot of these kids tend to be not just not ready, but actually no where near ready.

The variations between states across Australia is as follows:

NSW Kids can start school at 4.5 years. Cut off date is to turn 5 years by 31st July.
ACT Kids can start school at 4.8 years. Cut off date is to turn 5 years by 30th April.
NT Kids can start school at 4.6 years. Cut off date is to turn 5 years by 30th June.
WA Kids can start school at 4.6 years. Cut off date is to turn 5 years by 30th June.
VIC Kids can start school at 4.8 years. Cut off date is to turn 5 years by 30th April.
TAS Kids can start school at 5.0 years. Cut off date is to turn 5 years by 1st January.
SA Kids can start school at 5.0 years. Can start that term after their 5th birthday.
QLD Kids can start school at 4.6 years. Cut off date is to turn 5 years by 30th June.
Ref: “Education in Australia. Age to be in School” Wikipedia. Retrieved (2012 22/8)

We can tend to become a little fixated on these dates, and while we have to adhere to them, they are also a guideline. Just because kids can start kinder in NSW at 4 and a half years, doesn’t necessarily mean they are ready to. Each state also stipulates at what point the child MUST be in school by. This creates an allowance for kids who are not quite ready and need a little more time. In most states, kids must have started school the year in which the child turns 6.

NSW have the youngest children starting school. This means that the problems NSW have in relation to school readiness, perhaps pose more difficulty in making the decision, as these kids have less time to be school ready.

Some kids are ready to go to school that sit close to the cut off date, no doubt about it. But parents can often tend to be looking in the wrong place to come to the conclusion that their child is school ready. Some simply look at the date they can legally go, some believe their child is ready for school because they have an interest in print or amazing language. And while all of these will aid in being school ready, the social maturity of the child is what needs to be looked at firstly.

For print interested kids who are not socially ready for the large social experience that school is, they can continue on with their interest in print in the preschool environment while they further their social skills. Parents who have children in this situation can worry that if they keep them back at preschool another year, that by the time they get to school, they will have so much knowledge when it comes to reading and writing that they will be bored in kindergarten. Kids love repetition far more than we do. How many times has your child watched Toy Story or Nemo? A few I take it. If your child has a great early childhood teacher, they will continue to extend them. But let’s think about worse case scenario and that they are bored, and bored for the whole year. But I still say this, what would you rather? A child who is bored for 12 months or playing catchup for 13 years, and I firmly believe that it is catchup.

As kindergarten teacher, what I mostly wanted to know were things like, could they separate from you quite well, keep it together if they dropped their lunchbox, not fall to pieces if they lose that game, and solve that problem in the playground without wacking that other kid over the head! Academics are far easier to teach than social maturity. School is very much the large social situation, we don’t tend to see our kids in such a large group. This is where your child’s early childhood teacher comes in. They not only see it, but have many other children in the room to use as a yard stick.

I have a motto. If in doubt, keep em out. Talk to your child’s early childhood teacher. They will be able to assist you, but the key word here is assist, they can’t make the decision for you. They know that 6 months into kindergarten or on return to the preschool environment, you have to feel like the decision has come from you.

For parents that are struggling to know what to do I pose this question to you. “How do you think your child will go in kindergarten?” These undecided parents of what I call “cut off kids” tend to answer in a similar way. “I think they will be okay” or “I think they will cope”. Do you really want your kids to cope or do you want them to do well? We should be setting up our kids for the best possible chance for success. To know that when we send them to school, to feel in ourselves they are 100% ready. In all the years that I taught, I never had a parent come back and wish they had of sent their cut off kid to school.

Sometimes we have to send cut off kids to school ready or not. Family dynamics, financial, whatever it may be. My advice to you is this. Make sure you are keeping the lines of communication open between yourself and the teacher, and make sure you are doing that homework, every single night.

For more detailed information on what schools expect in regards to school starters, you may find this article helpful. “School Skills for School Starters”.

By Danielle Mantakoul
Copyright 2012 Mummy Weekly
www.mummyweekly.com.au

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