School starting age – 2015 update

Back in 2010 I wrote a couple of posts on school starting age as I received many questions both in real life and on the blog about this topic. You can read the posts here:

Since that time there has been new research and we have sent our youngest child off to school and I am still asked this question frequently, so I thought I would post an update from both perspectives:

School Starting Age – Our Personal Experience

Our youngest child went to school at the youngest age of any of the five kids with his birthday being January 22, so he had just turned 5 by the time school started. With a cut off date in Victoria (the state we live in Australia) of April 30, it makes him one of the youngest in his class and there are children over a year older than him.

I am happy to say that all is going well with master 6. Both socially and academically all is progressing as we would like and most importantly he really enjoys school, loves reading and can organise himself well to get him self ready for school and when at school.

As noted in previous posts it is very much an individual decision for each child and taking the advice of those experts in your child’s life is important. We have a mix of earlier and later starters with two of our children turning 6 in the April they started school. We made these decisions based on the personalities, behaviours and advice given with each child and to date, I am happy to report that I think we have made the right choice for each child.

School Starting Age – Latest Research

The main theme through my reading on what is the best age to start kids at school is that age isn’t the only thing that needs to be taken into consideration. It appears that the type of educational setting is by far a more important factor. Play based learning seems to yield the best results as opposed to making young children undertake formal strict style of learning.

Studies consistently show that by middle school (year 3 onwards) there appears to be no significant difference between reading levels of those who started earlier or later. But it isn’t all about the academics of course and I have taken these quotes from current articles on the topic of school starting age to highlight this:

Cambridge University – School starting age the evidence

Studies have compared groups of children in New Zealand who started formal literacy lessons at ages 5 and 7. Their results show that the early introduction of formal learning approaches to literacy does not improve children’s reading development, and may be damaging. By the age of 11 there was no difference in reading ability level between the two groups, but the children who started at 5 developed less positive attitudes to reading, and showed poorer text comprehension than those children who had started later. In a separate study of reading achievement in 15 year olds across 55 countries, researchers showed that there was no significant association between reading achievement and school entry age.

Read the full post here – Cambridge University – School starting age the evidence 

The Conversation – Hard Evidence: at what age are children ready for school?

In a 2004 longitudinal study of 3,000 children funded by the department of education itself, Oxford’s Kathy Sylva and colleagues showed that an extended period of high-quality, play-based pre-school education made a significant difference to academic learning and well-being through the primary school years.

Read the full post here – The Conversation – Hard Evidence: at what age are children ready for school?

The Age – The ABC of holding them back

According to Professor Helen McGrath, an adjunct professor at Deakin University’s School of Education and a practising psychologist who has worked with the Victorian and federal education departments, there is no best age to for a child to start school, and certainly no sustained advantage in delaying the transition. By grade three testing can’t reveal which child in a class is a year older than another.

Read the full post here –  The Age – The ABC of holding them back

 The Sydney Morning Herald – Experts warn starting school too young harms learning, wellbeing

The University of Sydney’s honorary professor in early childhood education, Alison Elliott, said it was not the starting age that was important but rather what children were doing at school. ”I think if you look at most of our kindergarten classes, there’ll be a balance between what’s often called play-based learning and what is a more traditional learning of children sitting at tables,” she said.

Read the full post here –  The Sydney Morning Herald – Experts warn starting school too young harms learning, wellbeing

What has been your experience with deciding when to send your children to school?