When to start school: 4, 5, or 6?
Idea stirs online debate among parentsROSA STUDHOLME
A Timaru mother of 4-year-old twins is sceptical of plans to allow schools to accept children at that age.
The move, proposed by Manurewa MP Louisa Wall, would take early childhood education away from private operators and into public hands. The compulsory school age is 6, although most schools take children at 5.
But Jill White, who is mother to twins Cooper and Leo, said boys needed more time before starting school.
"I don't think it's a good thing at all. They might be ready socially, but certainly not academically.
"They might be able to write their name and count to 10, but socially . . . it can be really daunting for them."
Mrs White, a teacher-aid for four years, said sending 4-year-olds to school would put too much pressure on teachers.
"The quality of our great teachers is under pressure now, never mind putting 4-year-olds in the mix."
South Canterbury Free Kindergarten Association general manager Margaret Whitford said it would be difficult to accommodate 4-year-olds in the system.
"You would have to be able to find places for [potentially] 67,000 [children]."
She suggested early childhood services on school sites could be an option. "There are many skills and learning opportunities that early childhood services provide that [are] different to the school environment. Children need to be ready for school, and that's quite a big role for us."
The idea has stirred strong debate on the Timaru Herald Facebook page.
Many agreed with Ms Wall's proposal, but some had concerns children might not be ready at that age. Rochelle Pullman said it depended on a child's mental age.
"It all depends on the child themself and when the parents think they are ready. I think it's good to be able to give parents the choice."
Shjonny Te Puke-Bourke said her 4-year-old son was ready, and a teacher had agreed.
"I personally think it depends [on] the child, as my son is well and truly ready to go, so in that regard five doesn't seem young at all, and I personally think he would have been more than ready at four."
Kylie Murdoch said it was too young to send a child to school.
"Play and life experience are equally if not more important than school. I'm struggling to think about sending my child into the school system at five, let alone four."
Sapphire Benson said her boy turned 5 in November but was ready for school now. "He does three full days at daycare and still has heaps of energy."
Kerry Burrell said it depended on the child. "I do believe that six years old is the age when they must be in school. I wouldn't be keen to lower the age at all."
Karen Philpott was concerned at growing class sizes.
"I don't have a problem with sending children to school at four if there are the facilities."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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