The Big Question - Is My Child Ready To Go To School?
Have you struggled with the decision regarding the age at which your child will start junior school? Have you second-guessed yourself many times? Have you argued and disagreed with the opinion of your other half about the decision? It would seem that you have a lot in common with many households across the country.
There are many who will advocate that older rather than younger is the best guideline when it comes to the age that your child will be ready for “big school”. But that can feel quite vague for some families as it does not allow for individual personalities and circumstances which may dictate otherwise.
In terms of the legalities, children in Ireland are expected to have started formal education by the age of six. Children rarely start this late and it is generally at aged four or five that they begin at junior infants.
There are a number of concerns and worries from parents when making this decision. Many fear that at a younger age their child may not be ready for the leap in structured routine and learning. On the other hand, many feel that waiting another year will lead to boredom and will not offer the challenge that they may feel their child will require to progress.
For some parents, the decision is quite straightforward. The child’s date of birth makes the decision for them. Their birthday falls at a time where their age very obviously corresponds with the August/September school intake. But for others, the decision is a little more difficult.
We hear stories about children starting school at aged 4 and a couple of months and managing quite well. Perhaps they were in childcare environments for many years and truly outgrew their pre-school environment, requiring a greater challenge. They may have settled in really well and many parents will report that the teachers never noticed any great struggles considering that there was up to a year between them and some of their classmates. However, it seems to be the case that developmental differences do not often show until later years, particularly around aged eight. Some parents will also reference difficulties that seemed to arise in later years. For example, the summer before college when one’s friends are old enough to go out meaning the just-gone-seventeen-year-old feels left out because they can’t.
It seems that in general Ireland is moving towards the European average of aged five when starting formal education, but that does not take the challenging decision away for some parents because age is not the only factor. A very shy child who struggles with separation from their family may simply require an extra year to prepare them emotionally for that leap.
Some may have adjusted to toilet training at a slower rate than other children their age. They also may struggle with putting their own coat on or articulating their needs with speech. These are practical issues which may help determine if your child is ready to start their formal education.
It seems very uncommon to regret sending a child that little bit later and this seems to encourage people to go down that route.
Ultimately though, this decision is in the hands of the parents as they are the people who understand their child’s needs and abilities more than anyone else. Some parents truly believe that despite not being five years of age yet their child is more than ready to start at school.
Written by Tracey Quinn staff writer at Family Friendly HQ.