Ideal age to start school
Hi WSA/SC team
I am a parent with couple of questions for which I really could not get satisafactory answers from sources I checked- whether conversations or research online.
Then I found your sister site: ‘schools compared’ and I believe this is one of the best I have seen so far. And as per your advice I am posting my questions here:
1) For a child who is born end May and planning to attend an IB/British school here-she will just turn 3 y (&3 months)to join EY1 by August 31. But we would like to start her off in EY1 (not EY2)after a year at age 4 &3m. Are we allowed to do this? Is the KHDA approval needed? If so, is it hard to get this approval and does the school have a say in this? I mean, can the school prevent me from doing this?
2) The above is based on my personal opinion is that she is too young to start EY1 at 3 and I believe it would be best if she starts a bit older.
Based on your experience, what is your view on this matter?
I admit I am a bit biased because I always thought that being among the older kids in class has its advantages in the long run.
The only concern is that she will be over 6 years when she goes into Year1. Is that ok as per local laws and as per general principles/culture of schools in Dubai?
Kudos to the work you are doing- it is quite a social service for us parents.
Thanks and take care
Firstly, just to confirm, you are considering an IB school in Dubai with a K-year 13 structure – this is important as EY1 in a 13 year structure would officially allow enrolment at the age of 2 years and 8 months. The KHDA has recently (and very quietly) chosen to implement the calendar year cut off process by which children now need to be 3 years old by 31st December (not August), in order to start in FS1,EY1 or pre-K. It is not yet clear whether all schools that had retained the 3 years cut off will implement the earlier age option, but most non-UK curriculum schools have already done so. So in all likelihood, your daughter would join a cohort of children some of whom are potentially 3-4 months under 3 years of age when they start school. This would mean that she would actually fall nearer the middle of the age range.
In terms of the regulations, the KHDA allows a difference of up to 2 years of age as a maximum in terms of the age guidelines by grade. Your daughter would be well within this if you postpone her start by 12 months. However, you may well come under pressure from the school to enrol her in the age appropriate grade, simply because this is the norm. You can apply for a demotion from the KHDA and the school would need to support you in this, as they submit the documents. My advice would be therefore to ensure that you have your own strong arguments for keeping her back a year.
In terms of whether it is the right step, this is incredibly subjective. You know your daughter best. Is she confident? Does she like being around other children? Is she keen to explore and learn new things? How much time does she spend away from you/your partner currently? Is she attending nursery or playgroup? Does she get bored easily? If she is an outgoing, confident, explorative child who likes to discover and learn, she will probably settle into school easily. If she is quiet, shy, tends to prefer her own space and to do things at her own pace, then settling may be more of a challenge. Some schools do also consider the physical development of the child too. If she is large for her age, for instance, she might find it more difficult if she is placed in a class where there could be children up to 18 months younger than her when she joins them.
All children (and parents!) take time to adapt to the new routine and there is inevitably separation anxiety on both sides. I would also consider whether there are other children with whom she is at nursery (for instance) who will be starting school at the same time. If she is likely to be left behind, this may be a negative aspect.
In terms of whether being that much older than the rest of the cohort is an advantage, again, I think is very much down to the maturity of the individual child. For an immature child, yes probably, for a mature, confident one, perhaps not so much and certainly as children get older, I do not think the research shows that being the oldest makes any significant difference. I believe also that this tends to be more an issue with boys in the early years rather than girls, who tend naturally to mature more quickly.
In any event, I would definitely aim to ensure that your daughter is used to being around other children in a structured environment regularly, so that she is prepared for school whenever she starts. If she is in nursery, the staff there would also be able to guide you in terms of whether she is ready for the move to Big School.
Lastly, you may want to consider the environment you choose for her to start her formal education. There are an increasing number of Early Learning Centres which offer a transition from Nursery to school by offering a school EY curriculum in a smaller environment. If your concern relates to your daughter joining a large school with large classes, this form of transitional start may be worth consideration. Your daughter would then still be following an EY1 curriculum that would enable her to transfer to EY2 at the correct time.