Considering when to start school

When should my child start school?

The decision about when is the best time for your child to start school is an individual one. For some children, starting school at age 6 rather than 5 may provide them with an additional year to mature and increase their independence. For other children waiting until they are 6 will not be of great benefit.

It can help to discuss the timing of your child’s school entry with people who know your child well and also have an understanding of the school system. These people could include your child’s early childhood education and care (ECEC) teacher and/or early childhood intervention (ECI) professionals.

When making this decision, it is important to think about how this decision will affect your whole family.

What are the most important things to consider when deciding when my child will start school?

If your child has a disability, their development in certain areas may be delayed and/or different to other children of the same age.

Deciding when your child should start should not rest entirely on your child’s academic skills. Teachers say that academic skills are one of the least important areas in terms of children being ready for school.

Think about and discuss with those who know your child:

your child’s:

  • capacity to manage and regulate their emotions i.e. calm themselves down if they have become upset
  • ability to follow the teacher’s instructions
  • level of independence with self-help skills such as using the toilet
  • ability to manage their own belongings e.g. lunch box and school bag
  • social skills, that is how they get on with other children and adults
  • what supports and/or school settings are available to your child
  • when similar aged children your child knows in your community are starting school
  • financial or other family considerations around commencing school
  • It is important to also consider that at school:
  • the teacher is usually shared by a larger group of children than in early childhood settings.
  • the arrangement of the school day differs from most early childhood settings.
  • there are increased expectations for children to:
  • be part of a group for a longer period
  • to follow adult-led activities for more of the day

Read more about possible differences between early childhood education and care and school.

Can my child start school gradually?

For some children a gradual transition into full-time school attendance may help with make the transition more smooth. This needs to be planned for during the transition to school meetings.

For example, your child might attend:
Week 1 – 5 half days
Week 2 – 3 full days and 2 half days
Week 3 – 5 full days.

Ultimately your child should be attending school on a full-time basis as soon as possible. This is every child’s right and the necessary supports should be in place to make it successful.

What are the legal requirements for starting school?

Each state and territory in Australia has its own compulsory starting date for formal schooling.

State or territory Compulsory school starting age
ACT Children must have turned five by 30th April to begin the school year. For more information on school starting age in the Australian Capital Territory click here.
NSW Children can begin compulsory Kindergarten at the beginning of the school year if they turn five on or before 31st July in that year. All children must be enrolled in school by the time they turn six. For more information on school starting age in NSW click here.
NT Children can start Transition (non-compulsory) at the start of the school year if they turn five by 30 June that year. To enter Year 1 (compulsory) children must turn six before 30th June that year. For more information on school starting age in the Northern Territory click here.
QLD Children can start Prep (non-compulsory) if they turn five by 30th June that year. Children must start year 1 (compulsory) if they turn six by 30th June that year. For more information on school starting age in Queensland click here.
SA

Children must start school by six years. If a child turns five before 1 May they will start school on the first day of term one in that year. If a child turns five on or after 1 May, they will start school on the first day of term one the following year. For more information on school starting age in South Australia click here.

TAS Children may attend Kindergarten (non-compulsory) they turn four on or before 1 January of the year they start. Children must turn five by 1 January to start Prep, the first year of formal school. For more information on school starting age in Tasmania click here.
VIC Children must turn five by 30 April to attend school that year. For more information on school starting age in Victoria click here.
WA

Children must start school if they have turned 5 after the 30th June in the year prior or if they will turn 5 before the 30th June in the current school year. For more information on school starting age in Western Australia click here.