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Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Can you start school too early?

It is amazing how we interpret figures differently according to our viewpoint isn't it?

In an article in the Victorian Herald Sun today we are given the following information about students who have had to repeat a year in Victorian state schools:

Almost 5300 students were repeating last year,....... Last year, more than 1200 kids repeated prep, followed by 824 year 11 students, 689 in year 12, 479 in grade 1 and 323 in year 10.

OK - let me put a possible interpretation on the figures:

  • the prep cohort, that is, the school starters, mostly probably 5 year olds, 1200 of them (22.5% of the stats), are likely to be children who started school too early, who had inadequate preparation for a full school day, possibly limited experience of kindergarten, who were socially immature, or had other settling in problems.
    They will include children who have almost no command of English, and are trying to learn the language at the same time as learning to read and write.

    There has been considerable debate over the years about the correct starting age for school. The Australian states have generally settled on a child being enrolled in school at some time during the year in which they turn 5. In some states they can only start at the beginning of a year immediately after their 5th birthday, in others they can start in the next term after their 5th birthday.

    In Victoria a child starting prep must turn 5 by 30th April in the year of enrolment.

  • if you add to that figure the 479 having to repeat grade 1, I think you are seeing the same reasons. That brings the total of "early repeaters" to 1679, nearly one third of the total. Early childhood teachers will tell you that there are a variety of reasons why these children benefit from repeating the year. Sometimes it is as simple as the fact that they have been in reception for less than 6 months when the school year ends and school/departmental policy determines that they must put in the extra time.

There are many reasons why students take longer than 2 years over years 11 and 12, but perhaps we could say "thank goodness they do", because they and their parents have recognised the benefits of completing their education. The repeaters in the sample total 1513, again nearly 30%, but these figures need further clarification about what repeating actually is.

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