When Should Your Child Start School? {Guest Post}

My daughter will be starting school next year! It's such an exciting time for our family and we are really looking forward to it. She'll be four when she starts, turning five in early March. There was no doubt in my mind that she would be ready. Not that I have pushed her to do any of the educational activities you've seen on the blog or Instagram - I really do try to take her lead and follow her interests of when she wants to do writing, drawing, reading, numbers, sensory or imaginary play. As well as being academically ready (in my opinion), her Preschool teachers agree and she is so used to the daily routine of a 7:30 - 4pm day that I think she'll cope with school life really well.

However in my chats with family and friends, it can be a difficult decision to make for March & April babies who will either be 4 turning 5 when they start (making them one of the youngest in their cohort), or 5 turning 6 when they start school. And in many cases you need to have a plan the year prior to decide if they will commence sessional kindergarten or not. A really good piece of advice I heard from a friend (she read it in a book) was to ask yourself; "Will they flourish? Or will they just cope?". Parents often do not regret their choice to wait another year before sending their child, but some who choose to send them 'early' do.

So to help you navigate this big decision and to give you some food for thought, today I welcome Aly from Grow to Know. She's a teacher of the Early Years like me and her website Grow to Know is all about preparing children for school. Aly has some really clear dot points for your to consider to decide if your child really is ready...

Hello, my name is Aly, I am big fan of Teacher Types and was thrilled to be asked by Lauren to write this blog post. I have been a Preschool and  Kindergarten Teacher and now I am a Mummy watching my own little one grow up (way to fast).

When should your little one start school? Wow, this is such big question and quite a hard one to answer, especially when you are the parent! The age in which your child is to start school varies between the different states and territories in Australia. It is when your little one is five or the year that you little one is turning five before a particular month (the months vary between states). What matters most is whether your little one is ready for school. There are so many ideas and opinions around this topic.

I have had so many conversations with parents over this topic and I sympathise with you. It is a big decision and bigger if this is your first child and you haven't been to a school since you were at school yourself.  I am hoping to provide you with some guidance to help you make the best decision for your little one. I have made a list of skills that would be beneficial for your little one to have gained before they head off to Big School (not every child has all of these skills before beginning school).

Social and Emotional Skills

  • Manners
    • Says please, thank you, asks for help in a polite way and talks to different people when spoken to
  • Play Fairly
    • Is a team player and able to participate in games and group/circle times. Children need to understand that they might not always be first and they won't win every game.
  • Is able to separate from a parent or carer
    • Separates from parents or carers with minimal fuss and is mostly happy to stay at school and start the day.

School Readiness Skills

  • Follow Instructions
    • Is able to be given more than one instruction to follow at a time.
  • Demonstrates Independence
    • Includes being able to look after their own belongings, responsible for bring notes home, navigate their way through the school and use the toilet independently.
  • Feeding  themselves
    • Ensure that your little one can open containers, snap lock bags, unwrap glad wrap, undo their drink bottle and lunch box.
  • Able to focus
    • Your little one should be able to focus on a task and sit still for at least 10 to 15mins  (the length of a children's book).
  • Hold a pencil the correct way
    • Is working towards holding a pencil correctly and developing good fine motor skills.

Academic Skills

  • Know their name
    • Able to recognise and beginning to write their own name independently.
  • Letters
    • There are 26 letters in the alphabet which can be a lot to learn for a little one who isn't at school. It would be beneficial if your child knew some letters (start with the letters in their name) and some letter and sound combinations. Help your little one to understand that letters have a sound attached to them.
  • Numbers
    • There are 26 letters and an infinite number of numbers. If your little one could recognise some numbers (below 10), count to 10 and have an understanding that a number has a corresponding amount this would provide them with a great foundation.
  • Reading Behaviours
    • While a Kindergarten teacher will often not expect your child to be able to read it will often be expected that your little one can hold a book correctly, turn pages, understand the difference between print and pictures and can sit and listen to a story.

The first day of Kindergarten is full of so many emotions, 20 (ish) four and five year olds, throw in 40 odd parents and one nervous and excited teacher. The first day of school can be hectic for the teacher (yep teachers get nervous too) let alone a little one starting Big School for the first time. It is a much smoother transition into Big School life if your little one has some skills to get them off to a great start.

I really hope that the above has provided you with some insight into whether your little one is ready for school or not.

Whenever I had this conversation with parents I would often remind them that there is no race to the end of childhood and no race to start school. Your little one will have a much more positive start to Big School if they have most of the skills above.

I wish you and your little one all the best for their first day of Big School whenever that may be.

Aly is a Teacher and Mum with a passion for helping families prepare their little ones for ‘Big School’. Before becoming a Mum in Feb 2016 she spent most of her years in Preschool, Kindergarten and Year One. Aly has a Bachelor of Education in Early Childhood and Primary Teaching, is married to her best friend, Ben and Mum to Houston.


  1. I read this with much nodding of my head about how this guide is exemplary!! I have been a NSW K-6 principal and deputy principal for many years and it was my role to ensure 'readiness' when I interviewed a child's family or handled enquiries. After I retired I took my expertise and experience and made a consultant role for me working with families and staff at a big group of pre-schools where my role was essentially about 'ensuring' readiness for school. This post is so spot-on I have bookmarked it even though I no longer work in any capacity. Thank you! Denyse #teamIBOT

  2. Miss L is amped about starting school - Her confidence and social skills have flourished since starting kindy and she is coming along really well in her reading and writing. She's also doing OSHC twice a week now which she really loves and has got her mingling with older kids that will be at the school next year. I'm confident she is ready for school.

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