Should children be held back from starting school? Study shows no long term gains

Should children be held back from starting school? Study shows no long term gains

by Freya Lucas

February 03, 2021

Holding children back from starting school in the hopes of gaining a long term advantage is an unsuccessful strategy, new research from University of New England researcher Sally Larsen has found.


While children who started kindergarten (the first year of school in New South Wales) later were slightly ahead of their peers in reading and numeracy after three years, but this advantage was lesser in years five and seven, and had disappeared altogether by year nine. 


School itself plays a much more significant role in literacy and numeracy progress rather than age discrepancy, Ms Larsen found. 


In many states and territories, parents of children born between January and July face a dilemma, given that children can begin school if they turn five in that year, but are not legally required to be in school until the time they turn six. 


Some private schools have differing requirements. In New South Wales, where Ms Larsen conducted her research, more than a quarter of children were beginning school a year later than the time when they first became eligible for school entry. 


Ms Larsen used longitudinal data from twin studies to examine whether delayed school entry was associated with higher achievement in NAPLAN reading and numeracy tests, finding there was no significant difference between male and female students. 


Fellow academic Professor Ben Edwards of the Australian National University said the findings were unsurprising, cautioning that academic achievement is only one piece of the school readiness puzzle. 


He suggested that parents speak with preschool or early learning educators, and pay attention to their child at home. His ultimate advice was for parents to trust their gut instinct. 


“If you think your child is not ready, then they probably aren’t,” he told The Sydney Morning Herald


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