How can I decide if my child is ready to start school?

Kindergarten/Prep is generally the first step in formal education. The process goes; when your child reaches a specific age, they are expected to attend classes with children of the same age. However, school is becoming increasingly different than it was a few decades ago. The curriculum is more packed, the expectations are higher, and therefore the importance of your child’s readiness is even more prevalent.

All children develop at their own pace; some develop physical abilities faster than their peers, while others develop their intellectual skills first. However, the Kindergarten curriculum follows a standard and mandated syllabus designed for the children to learn in all areas, simultaneously. 

The transition to standardised learning may affect your child’s emotional, social, and behavioural skills, therefore directly affecting their school success. Therefore, how do you know if your child is ready for school? Here is a list of things you need to know before considering sending your child to Kindergarten.

School is an important milestone in a child’s life as well as their family’s life. When you’re a parent, one of the things you must consider for your child’s growth and development is their readiness for school. 

Is it the right time for your child to start school?

Are they within the proper age range? Do they know fundamental rights and wrongs? Are they somewhat socially adept? There are so many factors that can affect the answer to such a simple question. And, It’s normal to be concerned about your child’s readiness for a classroom. So, here are factors to help you decide on making an informed decision.

  1. Ability to Communicate

Communication is key. Much of how your child views communication comes from you. You are the model through which your child learns the ins and outs of communicating. They learn your mannerisms, expressions, and most importantly; ways to approach new situations. 

Through this learned communication, they can express and understand feelings. Communication also helps develop critical thinking, as well as maintaining relationships with others. Furthermore,  is the fundamentals skill to begin reading and writing. 

By the time your child reaches appropriate school age, they should be able:

  • form longer sentences
  • share ideas and opinions
  • Start to identify words by sound
  • Start to identify letters in the alphabet
  • Begin to combine letters to form words
  1. Ability to Socialise

Your child’s social skills will determine how well they can interact with others. In the classroom setting, they will have to interact with their classmates, schoolmates, and teachers. This goes hand-in-hand with communication. If they struggle to socialise with others, they will not be able to communicate their needs and concerns. Socialising includes verbal and non-verbal communication, good manners, and the willingness to communicate with others.

Being able to socialise includes:

  • Being attentive to others
  • Being interested and responsive—are they able to listen to the other person that they are communicating with?
  • Are they able to express themselves competently to others?

An article you might be interested in for this Teaching life Skills

  1. Ability to Self-Care

Are they able to take care of themselves? In a classroom, children are expected to take care of their personal needs; such as using the toilet, dressing, arranging, and maintaining their belongings. Being able to take care of themselves gives them confidence and develops their self-esteem. Most importantly, it establishes their individuality.

Are they able to:

  • Take go to the toilet on their own (including dressing and undressing for the task)
  • Care for their belongings
  • Dress themselves
  • Manage personal hygiene with little to no help from adults
  1. Physical Abilities

Can your child adequately control their fine and gross motor skills? Are they physically developed enough to perform day-to-day activities? This factor is just as important as others when considering how school-ready your child is. Not only is cognition important, but abilities such as writing and drawing and properly coordinating their muscles are vital in their development as individuals. 

Can they effectively use their physical skills?:

  • Gross motor skills: jumping, running, balancing, and anything that involves sizeable bodily movement.
  • Fine motor skills: drawing, writing, buttoning their clothing, tying shoelaces, and other focused physical activities.
  1. Intellectual Abilities

At this age, children are typically creative and imaginative. Generally, this is the stage in their life where they learn basics such as colour, letters, numbers, learning names, understanding sounds, and other fundamentals. This knowledge is essential when it comes to deciding between sending your child to school and one of the most tricky factors to determine. Remember, all children develop at their own pace, especially intellectually. Take time to evaluate your child’s cognitive capabilities.

Do they already have skills such as:

  • Knowing all, if not most of the alphabet
  • Identifying symbols and sounds
  • Reciting their names, family members’ names, etc.
  • Paying attention and keep concentration
  • Counting groups and objects
  1. Emotional Capabilities

Being emotionally capable means understanding their emotions, what causes these emotions, and how to handle the feelings they are experiencing. Though children around this age may not fully comprehend the entirety of emotions, they should understand simple emotions, such as being happy, sad, hurt, and others. Being emotionally capable can help shape their identities and values as people. 

Are they capable of:

  • Telling you how they feel
  • Aware of what causes particular emotions
  • Empathy towards others

If you are looking for more information we have created an great information pack to equip you with all the knowledge you need to be school-ready Click here to get the program.

Ready for school checklist
Need some extra help to decide

In summary; when assessing how ready your child is for school consider: Are they able to communicate appropriately? Are they able to socialise with others? Are they able to care for themselves? Are they physically capable? Are they intellectually prepared? Are they able to convey their emotions properly? 

If the answer to the majority of these is yes, then your child may well be ready to embark on the challenge of formal education. If the answer is no, sometimes allowing them some more time is in their best interest. Prioritising your child’s development and needs is more critical than pressuring them into an environment that they are not ready for. As a responsible parent/carer, your job is to consider the best solution for your individual child. Establish the fundamentals that they need, allow them the time to develop them, and they’ll be ready to take on any challenge they encounter in school and their lives.

Do you think your kids are ready for school? How do you feel about sending them to school? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

The minimum school starting age and culture differs per Australian state. 

Cut off dates for children starting school in Australia

Here is a summary of the minimum school starting age and culture per state. It can be a bit confusing depending on where you are.

New South Wales
A child can be enrolled in school if they turn 5 before July 31 of that school year. The law mandates that children should be in compulsory schooling by the time they reach 6 years of age.

Children should start school from the age of 6. They must turn 5 before April 30 of that school year to be enrolled in a government school.

Children must be in compulsory school at the age of 6 years and 6 months.

Western Australia
When a child reaches a minimum age of 5 years and 6 months, they can begin school.

South Australia
The compulsory school age for a child is 6 years old.

Children can attend Kindergarten when they are 4 years old but they are required to be enrolled after their 5th birthday.

Northern Territory 
Children must be in school by the age of 6 but can start pre-school when they are 4 years old.

Australian Capital Territory
If a child is turning 5 years old before April 30 of the school year, they can already be enrolled in school.

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