The ACT and Victoria allow a student to enter school if their fifth birthday falls on or before April 30, while in the Northern Territory and Queensland the cut-off date is June 30.
“I would say NSW is a bit of an outlier compared to other states,” Chiang said.
“The problem of children being sent too early when they are not ready creates problems for children as they settle into school.”
The trend to hold back children is particularly pronounced in Sydney, as boys are more likely to start school at an older age than girls. But researchers say it has no long-term academic benefits.
Research from the University of New England shows that students who were withheld averaged slightly better NAPLAN scores in third year, but this advantage disappears by the time students reach ninth year.
The co-author of this study, Dr. Sally Larsen said the deadline should be brought forward to April to close the gap.
“In terms of development, a year is quite a long time. If you have kids who should be in their first year, chances are they will get bored and misbehave. I don’t think parents take that aspect into account,” she said.
“In NSW we have this particularly unusual situation where there can be a 19 month gap… We have the widest age range, that hasn’t been tampered with in 36 years, it’s this historic politics that just goes on and on.” At.”
Last year Mitchell, then NSW Education Minister, proposed raising the school age to six after announcing a plan to give every child in the state a year of free pre-school education. Labor vowed to follow the coalition’s plan but implement it faster, and announced it would build 150 preschools in the first term.
“I think this would have been a reasonable time to recalibrate the school entry age,” Mitchell said.
The current school entry age rules were introduced in 1987, after NSW Victoria followed suit, changing the cut-off date to July. While Victoria abandoned this policy seven years later, NSW stuck with it.
Benjamin Edwards, a professor at the Australian National University, said research had shown over several years that wealthier areas of Sydney sent their children to school later and migrants were more likely to send them to school earlier, possibly because of the high cost of childcare.
“It’s amazing to me how resilient this phenomenon is over such a long period of time. It’s a very Sydney thing,” he said.
Next year, kindergarten students in South Australia will be able to take part in a ‘mid-year intake’ for students born May to October to reduce the large age and student development gaps. Students entering mid-year complete six trimesters of the first year of school.
Most private schools in New South Wales require a student to be five years old by March 31st of the year they start Kindergarten, including St Luke’s Grammar on the Northern Beaches. In its start-up guidelines, the school stated that a break meant fewer students would have to repeat a grade.
“Educational staff have observed over time that students born between April and July, inclusive, do not always achieve appropriate milestones and in many cases parents attempt to repeat these students,” it said.
Headmaster Geoff Lancaster said a later start date means students are more mature and better able to manage their emotions, communicate more effectively and form positive relationships. “In our experience, this is often a good choice to ensure students are school-ready and not force them to grow up too quickly,” he said.
In 2019, Newington College went a step further, specifying that only kindergarten students who turn five by January 31st are accepted, as play is beneficial to a child’s early years.
While private schools have exacerbated age disparities, Robyn Hughes, President of the NSW Primary Principals Association, said there were other considerations besides age.
“We look at readiness to get into school … Age isn’t what we look at first,” she said.
Steph Cochrane, who lives in southern Sydney, could send her daughter Florence to school next year but will wait another 12 months. “I just think holding her back is never cheating,” she said.
She said Florence was academically and emotionally mature, but she believed the only regret parents had was sending their children to school earlier rather than later.
“Kids who are in good emotional well-being and happy are going to be the ones who are going to learn,” she said.
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