New Zealand kids may soon be able to start school at four years old

first day school

Parents may soon be able to send their four-year olds to school under a proposed law change.

The proposal that schools have the option of “cohort (group) entry” would mean children start primary school at the start of the term closest to their fifth birthday.

Currently, most children start school on their fifth birthday or soon after.

Some schools are encouraging parents to start their children at school as part of a cohort on set dates during the year. Some education professionals consider that cohort entry enables them to support better transitions to school, simplify school and classroom planning, and minimise disruption for existing new entrant children.

Under the current Act, however, schools must allow any child who has turned five to start school on the day requested by their parents.

child off to school

The proposal is one of a raft of changes proposed in the Education (Update) Amendment Bill (the Bill), which is at the select committee stage in Parliament. Submissions on the bill close at the end of the month.

The Bill proposes to enable schools to implement a cohort entry policy whereby a group of new entrants could only start school all together at the beginning of each term.

The earliest that children would be able to start school is at the beginning of the term closest to their fifth birthday.

Before introducing a cohort entry policy, school boards of trustees would be required to consult with school staff, parents of current and prospective students of the school, and local early childhood education services. Schools will be required to publicise their cohort entry policy at least a term before implementing it.

Of 1117 public submissions on the cohort proposal, nearly three-quarters were supportive, including 76 per cent of parents and 80 per cent of teachers. Other education professionals believe there was no research to suggest group starting days provided educational benefits over the current individual system.