In Western Australia, it is compulsory for parents to enrol their children in Pre-Primary if they turn 5 by 30th June. All children of compulsory school age must be enrolled in school and attend every day – this is the law.

However, parents have a choice of starting their children’s Kindergarten if they turn 4 the year before. The big question is, “Is my child ready for school?”

What is “school readiness”? Is it being able to read? Write? Do basic math? No, it’s much more than that! Your child needs other skills such as social skills, emotional skills, physical skills, communication skills, cognitive skills and self-help skills.

With the social skills, you need to ask these questions:

  • Does he make friends easily?
  • Is he ready to share?
  • Can she play independently?
  • Does she have basic manners? “Please” and “thank you” are as basic as it gets
Social Skills:

Your child may be a genius at reading, writing and arithmetic but it is the social skills that will make school that much more enjoyable for him. I once taught a 9-year-old genius in a 16-year-old class. Needless to say, the school was a very lonely journey for him. The teachers were his best friends but there’s a limit to what a teacher can do without showing favouritism! The last I heard, he had burnt out by the time he entered university.

Emotional skills:

If your child still has separation anxiety when you leave her at child care, you might want to reconsider enrolling her for kindergarten at 4 years old. Sometimes they get over that overnight, but usually, it takes time. The other question you need to ask yourself is whether your child can manage his emotions especially when he is tired or when he doesn’t get his way. How does he react to losing a game? Remember that his classmates will not be that willing to let him win all the time!

Physical skills:

Does your child have basic fine motor skills such as being able to grip a pencil? Can he turn the pages of a book, one at a time? You should also look for gross motor skills such as running, jumping, climbing or even playing ball. Then there’s his basic health to consider. Does he fall sick easily? If that is the case, talking to your GP before enrolling him for school is advised.

Communication skills:

Your child may chatter a lot, but does he speak clearly? Can she understand instructions and carry them out? Can he communicate his needs? For example, if you are unusually late to pick him up from school, does he know to communicate this to a trusted adult such as his teacher or principal?

Cognitive skills:

Wikipedia defines cognitive skills as “the ability of an individual to perform the various mental activities most closely associated with learning and problem solving”. We tend to associate cognitive skills with maths concepts and problem-solving skills however, in children cognitive skills also include being able to wait and to take turns.

Self-Help Skills:

And before you pack your little one off to school, you should consider mundane things such as

  • Can he unwrap his own lunch? Yes, he will need this skill every day if he doesn’t want to go hungry.
  • Can she keep her own belongings in her bag at the end of the day? You don’t want to be running out to buy new colour pencils every week because she had lent them out and didn’t get them back.
  • Can he go to the toilet without adult supervision? Can he dress/undress himself if he needs to change into sports attire?

And finally, the important bit of information that all children should have – your telephone numbers.

Research says that when children are developmentally ready to learn, they tend to do better at school. An independent review by Pascoe and Brennan was commissioned by state and territory officials in Australia to make recommendations on the most effective interventions in early childhood, with a focus on

  • school readiness
  • improving achievement in schools and
  • future success in employment or further education.

The review finds that quality early childhood education makes a significant contribution to achieving educational excellence in schools, with growing evidence that it improves

  • school readiness
  • lifts NAPLAN results and PISA scores
  • raises year 12 completion rates and
  • reduces the need for additional support – particularly so for vulnerable or disadvantaged children.

But don’t worry if your child doesn’t tick all the boxes. Remember every child is unique. They do insist on developing at their own pace! If you’re concerned about your child’s development, the best people to talk to are their teacher/early childhood educator and/or your GP. They will be able to provide assessment and advice.

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