In the UK, children start school the year they turn 5 years old. This means that if you child , for instance, turns 5 in late August (or like mine with a birthday in mid-July), they will have only just turned 4 when they start school in the beginning of September and some parents might feel that this is very early.
Now, if your child genuinely isn’t ready for school for whatever reason, you do have the option of asking for him or her to be held back a year, but before you consider this (and I know I did!), have a talk with the school. Let the school teachers meet your child and ask them to make the assessment, they are, after all, the professionals and it’s not their first time. If your child has attended a good preschool, the caregivers there will also advise you.
Basically, although you know your child better than anyone, you are not really the right person to assess whether your BABY is ready to be thrown into the BIG WORLD – (quit being dramatic, it’s primary school, not an inner city drug program!) – without you there to take care of them… just think that the curriculum and the 1st year primary school program is designed for children of 5 years old and this is really what you need to remember when this time comes.
But no matter how realistic you are regarding your child beginning primary school, you too will find yourself dressing him or her in that uniform that seems much too big, even though it was the smallest size there, and you will feel a pang of nerves and worry that they might not be old enough. You will panic that they can’t even write their name, count to 10 without leaving out a number or two or tie their laces. But please remember that many normal children begin school not reading and writing and tying laces and will proceed quite happily and successfully to do so when ready, because children develop at different speeds in different areas and their primary school teacher is educated and experienced in dealing with the different levels primary school children are at in their first year of school.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Your child can benefit greatly from you trying to get them prepared for school. In addition to talking about school in a positive way and working little bits of information about what it will be like when they begin school to your conversations with your child, more and more the closer you get to September, there are things you can do to prepare as well. If your child has attended a good preschool, most of these things will be covered on a daily basis there and there. Some things to do with your child include:
Exposure to books. Listening to stories and colouring in is more important than actually pushing him to learn to read.
Craft skills. Cutting, pasting and drawing will stand a child in good stead for writing.
Coping mechanisms and social skills. You won’t see a child being referred to a psychologist because they can’t read at the start of school, but there are lots of kids who can’t share, don’t cooperate or haven’t learnt to adapt to change. You can practise these skills every day in easy ways by incorporating them into what you do and how you interact.
Toilet and clothes. Make sure your child is confident buttoning trousers, wiping their own nose, putting shoes on, pulling their pants up and down by themselves, wiping their own bottom and washing hands. In a classroom full of children, two teachers cannot teach as well as dressing, wiping and going to the toilet with every single child.