When Should My Child Start School? Factors To Consider For Early Or Delayed School Enrolment

When Should My Child Start School? Factors To Consider For Early Or Delayed School Enrolment | Raise the Bar Clinic

When it comes to enrolling your child in school, do you know the best time to start? For parents, this decision can be particularly challenging. Should they enrol their child early, giving them a head start, or hold them back and let them start school later? The choice may have lasting implications for their educational journey.

Deciding when to enrol a child in school is a significant decision that parents often grapple with as it may impact on their academic and social success.

Determining the best time to enrol a child born involves considering a range of factors. It’s not a simple decision and requires careful thought and consideration. Parents must consider the child’s readiness, academic ability, emotional maturity, and long-term outcomes.

What is the minimum school starting age in Australia?

Every parent will wonder, “When does my child start school?” The year a child can begin school is determined by their date of birth and the cut-off dates established by the state or territory government where the child will attend school. A child must be 5 years old by the cut-off date to begin school in January of that year.

Cut-off dates for starting school in Australia

  • New South Wales (NSW): 31 July
  • Victoria (VIC), Australian Capital Territory (ACT): 30 April
  • Queensland (QLD), Western Australia (WA), Northern Territory (NT): 30 June
  • South Australia (SA): 1 May
  • Tasmania (TAS): 1 January

When Should My Child Start School? Factors To Consider For Early Or Delayed School Enrolment | Raise the Bar Clinic

Factors to consider for early or late school enrolment

If you are considering whether to delay your child starting school, it is important to carefully consider all of the factors involved and make the decision that you believe will be best for your child’s individual needs and development, as well as the family as a whole. While strict cut-off dates dictate school entry, exceptions may arise, particularly for children born between January and April in Victoria.

Additionally, there is the option to start school early if the child is very advanced intellectually, although, in Victoria, strict rules govern the evidence required for this consideration. It’s essential to note that regulations may vary in other Australian states such as Queensland, New South Wales, and others, prompting parents to seek specific information relevant to their location.

Below is a list of different factors to consider when making your decision. 

1. Child’s development and readiness for school

  • Social development

Does your child show appropriate social skills like sharing, taking turns, and following rules?

  • Cognitive development

Is your child interested in learning? Do they have basic skills like recognising letters and numbers?

  • Physical development

Can your child manage basic self-care tasks like toileting, dressing, and eating independently?

  • Emotional development

Does your child have difficulty managing big emotions? Can they separate from you easily and transition smoothly into a new environment?


2. School environment and curriculum

It is crucial for every child and young person to feel a sense of belonging, confidence, and full engagement in their school activities for their success at school.

  • School’s approach to development

Does the school emphasise play-based learning or a more structured academic approach? How well does their curriculum align with your child’s needs and interests?

  • Class size and teacher-student ratio

Will your child thrive in a large classroom environment or benefit from more individualised attention?

  • Support for younger students or students with developmental differences

Does the school offer programs or resources specifically designed for students who are younger in their class or require extra support developing key developmental skills?


3. Family circumstances

  • Work and Childcare Considerations

Do you need your child in school for childcare reasons? If so, would an alternative preschool or daycare program be a better fit?

  • Financial Considerations

Are there any financial implications of delaying school entry, such as additional childcare costs or missed employment opportunities?

  • Sibling Relationships

Does your child have older siblings who are already in school? Will starting early or late affect their sibling relationships?

  • Personal Beliefs andPreferences

What are your own thoughts about the ideal age for starting school? What are your hopes and priorities for your child’s education? Consider your availability and ability to provide support at home if your child starts school later.


Additional helpful resources

When Should My Child Start School? Factors To Consider For Early Or Delayed School Enrolment | Raise the Bar Clinic

Final thoughts

When it comes to deciding between early or late school enrolment, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Each child is unique with different needs and priorities.

Ultimately, what matters most is providing them with the support and opportunities they need to thrive and succeed in their educational journey.

Parents may feel under pressure to “get it right” when it comes to school starting age. However, it is crucial to realise that starting school is only one of many transitions children will face throughout their lives.

Weigh the pros and cons carefully, and trust your gut instinct.

Book an appointment with one of our experienced psychologists today to discuss your needs and whether our assessment and/or intervention services are appropriate for you and your child.