Home' Aurora : Aurora April 2013 Contents When to begin school?
Readiness is the key
The journey of education begins
before birth and continues
throughout life. Deciding when
a child is ready to begin the schooling
journey is an important and personal
decision for parents and carers.
Aurora invited the principal of St John
the Baptist Primary Maitland, Mandy
Sanderson, to offer some tips to
assist with this important decision.
Catholic schools in the Diocese of
Maitland-Newcastle are now open for
enrolments for the 2014 school year.
When I chat to parents about their child's
readiness for school I often hear, "But they'll
be fine!" Actually, we as teachers don't want
them to be fine, we want them to flourish
in the school environment, we want to
give them the best possible introduction to
their school lives. Significantly, that means
starting them when they are ready for the
challenges they will face.
My thoughts on school readiness come
from many years of experience as a
Kindergarten teacher and a principal. There
is no text book answer but these simple and
practical questions may help you to make
the right decision for your child.
Is your child equipped to cope with the
physical challenge of kindergarten?
Spending six hours a day at school is
physically exhausting for a little child; they
have to sit, listen, interact, concentrate, play,
follow a schedule for eating and toileting, all
without rest time or a parent to help them
How well does your child interact and
socialise with adults and children?
Kindergarten is a huge year in which
children's social abilities develop markedly.
Their social skills base is critical to school
readiness. They are familiar with relating to
their family group; imagine how much more
complex it's going to be when their 'group'
becomes a class of 30 children, a teacher,
perhaps class assistants and other school
Does your child have the words to
articulate a problem, ask for help or tell
someone how they feel? Teachers are
very adept at deciphering a child's needs
and helping them but it's problematic to
assist an upset child if he or she can't
adequately express the difficulty.
Can your child recognise the written
form of his or her name? It isn't imperative
that they can actually write their name but
it is important that they can identify their
own schoolbag, lunchbox, workbooks and
especially their hat because that will go
missing on a regular basis!
How comfortable is your child being
separated from Mum or Dad? If they
are not used to having periods away from
their regular carer, a six hour separation,
five days a week, is a major shock and can
be genuinely traumatic for a 5 year old.
Experience with separation is essential.
Mums and Dads, a question for you: are
you ready to be separated from your child?
Now that's a hard one!
Is your child able to manage his or her
personal hygiene? Teachers will nurture
your child and look after their personal
needs by showing them how to use the
school toilets, where to wash their hands,
how to use bubblers, what to do if they feel
sick and need the sick bay (or Sick City
as we call it at my school!), but Kinders
must be able to toilet themselves without
assistance. It's also great when they know
how to blow their nose properly, use a
tissue and wash their face and hands if they
are messy after eating.
Is your child ready to be one of a group
of 30 and share the attention of one
teacher? This is so hard for littlies when
they have been accustomed only to sharing
Mum and Dad, or perhaps another regular
carer, with one or two siblings; now there
are all these other children who really want
to be the centre of the adult's attention
and there's only one of them to look after
everybody! Are they able to take turns,
negotiate in a game rather than respond
aggressively if things don't go their way,
share toys, take their turn 'out', do they have
to be the winner?
How able is your child to sit still for
periods of time? Being able to settle to a
task, listen to a story, listen to and follow
instructions, concentrate without being
distracted easily are all attributes that will
place pre-schoolers in good stead for their
arrival at school.
How independent is your child with
routines? Getting used to the school
routine with morning tea and lunch
procedures can be a stress or a thrill for
little children! They need to be familiar
with taking lids off containers, undoing
wrappers, peeling their banana...all these
things we automatically do for our children
yet they should have some proficiency with
these tasks when they get to school.
Is your child excited about learning and
going to 'big school'? Does he or she
enjoy being read to, are they interested
in what signs say, do they constantly ask
questions, do they always ask 'why?', are
your answers never quite enough and so
they have another question? All these are
There are so many things for parents to
think about and when to begin school is
such an important decision. Parents want
only the best for their children and by giving
deep thought to the question of school
readiness, you will make the decision that's
right for your child. Talk to your preschool,
talk to your enrolling school but most
importantly, listen to your own instinct
because you know your child better than
anybody else. If in doubt, be cautious and
know that another year at home might be
just what they need.
Considering these questions now gives
parents and carers plenty of time to develop
skills and confidence in children who may
begin Kindergarten in 2014.
Remember: age is a number; readiness is
All the best with your decision-making.
To learn more about enrolling your child
in a Catholic school, please visit
BY MANDY SANDERSON
Open classrooms were crowded at Corpus
Christi Primary School, Waratah.
Student leaders of St Joseph's Campus, All
Saints College Lochinvar met Bishop Bill
after the Catholic Schools Week Mass.
Students of St Joseph's Dungog were keen to
welcome visitors to their school.
Students of Holy Family Primary at Merewether
Beach enthusiastically celebrated St Patrick's
Day during Catholic Schools Week with 'the
wearing of the green'.
Catholic Schools Week
www.mn.catholic.org.au Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle
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