All parents want to make sure that their child makes a successful start to school, but you may be unsure if your child is ready. In Victoria students starting school can be as young as four years old. A typical Prep class may have children whose ages range from four to six years.
BY: MANDY WHITWORTH
Neuroscientific research has confirmed that the architecture of the human brain is an ongoing process that is most rapidly constructed during the early years of life. The quality of these early experiences affect this architecture. Therefore, children’s early learning experiences play a significant role in forming their brain for the future.
Education is about nurturing and developing the “whole” child. A young child needs the time to develop, play, create, wonder and enjoy in a relatively stress free environment in their early years of life. Prep is emotionally, physically and mentally demanding even for the most ready child.
Life and education is not a race to be won, but a journey of discovery, mastery and exploration. Many believe that school readiness is about being able to read, write or count. However, these are not necessarily a priority for school readiness. To enter school ready to thrive, flourish and enjoy the challenges, readiness needs to be seen as emotional and social maturity – aspects of development that we cannot fast track. Emotional and social maturity includes an ability to deal with separation, to show initiative, to demonstrate interest and to play alongside others. It also involves the ability to concentrate, to deal with frustration, to follow instructions, to express needs, to demonstrate self-help skills and to participate in small groups. We want children to be happy, to have a high sense of self-worth and enjoyment.
There is no long term research that shows disadvantages in either starting a little older or earlier. The trend of carefully considering if a child has the necessary social skills to start school is a sensible one and a significant shift from the days when it was just assumed that all children would be ready at the same time. The best teachers strive to help parents make a more informed and considered decision about whether their child is ready to start school.
The best person to consult about school readiness is your child’s preschool teacher. Success in the early years of school has implications for future achievement in school and beyond. It is important to visit the school you have chosen for your child and meet the principal and teachers. A school tour on a school day will allow you and your child to experience the culture and approaches of a school and confirm that you have made the right choice. Talk to other families and members of the school community to determine whether this school shares your family values and aspirations. Children are going to be at school for a long time, so let’s ensure their success with a great start.
Mandy has been the Head of Wardle House, the Junior School at Toorak College, since 2013. Prior to that she was the Deputy and Curriculum leader. Mandy has over 30 years’ experience in various Primary schools, with particular expertise in the early years of schooling.