Best time to start school

By ILONA HANNE

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The time-honoured tradition of starting school on your fifth birthday is not always in the best interests of the child, university lecturer and neuro-science / brain development expert Nathan Mikaere-Wallis says.

"Research shows that the majority of children are disadvantaged by starting school at age 5 and the children's brains need them to be physically active as the neuro science shows that movement and learning go together."

Lynsi Latham-Saunders, Head Teacher at Avon Kindergarten, agrees.

"Children start their learning journey long before they start school, Te Whriki, the NZ Early Childhood Curriculum is internationally recognised for its research base and focuses on children developing the all-important "I can" attitude that makes for positive self-belief as a learner."

Children attending Avon Kindergarten are supported in their learning with a focus on meaningful context she adds.

"Children experience success at reading, writing and maths in the child's time and the child's way.

"One example of this is using specific mathematical and scientific language when interacting with a child when they construct with blocks.

"Teachers avoid encouraging rote learning to recite numbers or sing the ABC song, as rote learning can a barrier to the child developing understanding and can be difficult to unlearn."

This, says Lynsi, gives the children a lifelong love of learning.

Under New Zealand law children can start school any time between the ages of five and six and Lynsi says a growing number of parents are choosing to keep their children at the kindergarten after they turn five.

"The Ministry of Education have recognised the benefits of children starting school after five, and fund the 20 hours up to the age of six years old, giving parents a choice about the age for their child to start school to best suit the child.

We encourage parents to look at their child as a person and to make the decision about starting school based on the individual, not a birthday.
Lynsi Latham-Saunders, Head Teacher at Avon Kindergarten

Lynsi organised for Nathan Mikaere-Wallis to visit the kindergarten last month and says it was great to hear him talk about the benefits of delaying the start of school.

"Nathan is a powerful and inspirational speaker. It was great hearing so many positives about what we are doing here".

He has since written to thank Lynsi and the team at Avon Kindergarten with "Wow I was impressed! The confidence and interpersonal skills were quite dazzling. Especially so with boys - a huge accomplishment in light of all the poor stats for boys nationally".

Lynsi, who has both primary and early childhood teaching qualifications and experience, says there are close links between the New Zealand early childhood curriculum and the primary schools one, making for a seamless transition when early childhood centres and schools work together.

At Avon Kindergarten, they have a wall with pictures of the new entrant teachers at all the local primary schools, so children know the faces of the teachers they will come across later.

"Going to school shouldn't be scary, and we work hard to make sure our children are ready and excited about their new learning journey when it is time for them to move on to school," says Lynsi.

What do you think? Should children start on their fifth birthday? Earlier? Later? Write to the editor editor@stratfordpress.co.nz.

- Stratford Press

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