The age debate: Should your child start Grade 1 at age five or six

The age debate: Should your child start Grade 1 at age five or six

This is what a school principal had to say about gauging if it’s a good idea to allow your child to start school at five years of age.

School girl
School girl/ iStock

According to the South African government, children can start grade one at the age of five if they will be turning six before June in the year of their enrolment. 

However, some parents might have concerns about whether it is the right age to be sending their child to school. 

Ntombi Nxumalo, a principal at Spark School in Midrand, says studies have shown that the most critical period of a child’s life is the first four years. 

The educator says because children develop differently, parents should not only look at the age of their child but evaluate how their child is developing. 

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Educators say that each child develops differently, so parents should not only look at their child's age, but also assess how they are developing. 

One sign is independency. 

“You see it in how they reach milestones like sitting, crawling, and walking. It is the same with school readiness, parents use the age allowance for Grade 1 as a guideline and then monitor if their child is able to work independently, follow simple instructions and is able to socially interact with other age mates.” 

She says these are some of the skills that they will need in Grade 1, including the ability to self-regulate emotions.   

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Nxumalo says parents need to look at whether their child has the ability to articulate what they wish to write or even retell a story. 

The principal says these skills are usually developed in Grade R and she recommends that every scholar goes through Grade R before being admitted to Grade 1, a year in which they transition into formal education from play school or preschool. It is a year of preparation for the scholars to be able to deal with what will be expected from them in Grade 1. 

“A child who completed Grade R has an advantage going into Grade 1 over a child who did not,” says Nxumalo. 

Supporting your child to thrive in school 

The principal says there are several things parents can do to support their child’s learning at home. 

“Children learn best from the actions of adults. If parents want their children to read they should read books at home. Parents can also instil some structure at home with time allocated for watching TV playing games, and bedtime. 

“Children thrive when they are trusted to complete certain tasks at school which can be done also at home." 

The principal says depending on your child’s age, parents can assign tasks like clearing the table, putting dirty clothes in the laundry basket, packing away their toys, and tidying up their rooms. 

She adds that it is important to check on the child's emotional well-being and development. 

"Asking your child how their day was and them being able to respond is already showing their awareness of their surroundings and emotions. It is very important for parents to encourage their children through positive reinforcement. Understand that we make mistakes, but it is equally important to learn from them.” 

READ: #BackToSchool: Assisting your child to do well in school 

Image courtesy of iStock/ @Siarhei SHUNTSIKAU

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