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Questions to ask parents when deciding to delay school

Psychologist and education academic Dr Amanda Mergler and co-author Prof Susan Walker, both of QUT, have published the results of a study into the factors that affect parents’ decisions about whether to delay their child’s schooling.

The study, This is possibly THE hardest decision a parent has to make. Deciding when your child is ready to start Prep (Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 42(2), June 2017) found the issue was a “highly emotional” one that caused significant stress.

Mergler said it was difficult to objectively assess the relative benefits of delayed or on-time entry, with so many factors, such as the child’s personality and development, the intended school and its individual teachers.

Mergler recommend parents consider the following when making the decision:

  • how well their child can pay attention
  • how their child interacts with other children
  • whether their child enjoys structured activities
  • whether their child can follow simple, clear instructions
  • whether their child can communicate effectively with others
  • whether their children can independently use the toilet or ask for help.

“This is not a definitive list, and indeed some children may not be able to do these things when they do start school, but it could help guide parents as to what is right for their child."

“Our advice to parents considering this decision is that you know your child,” Dr Mergler said. “As a parent, it is wise to read widely in this area, and ask for input from childcare and kindergarten teachers and others, but ultimately you need to make a decision – an informed gut feeling – based on your child.”


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