“You sent them when?” It is the common attack query that mothers like me face on a regular basis.
My crime? I sent my twins to school “early” – so early, in fact, that the NSW Department of Education has revealed that less than two per cent of children were four on July 1 of their kindergarten year last year.
Two per cent – the figure leaps out at me like a slap.
My husband and I are in a rare club indeed. It’s one that many other parents wouldn’t want to be in given the weight of condemnation us brave early-senders face.
1. Selfishly wanting to do away with our eye-wateringly steep childcare fees in favour of the freebie NSW school system, or
2. Just complete ignoramuses unaware of the benefits of later school starts – thus condemning our children to everything from missing out on binge drinking with their friends in Year 12 to adult bed-wetting.
Think of Finland, these outraged critics say. Ah, Finland. Nothing against this lovely little nation, but really, being held up against their pedagogical tradition of sending children “late” – Finnish kids start school at seven and it apparently produces a nation of smarty-pants – is getting old. Quickly.
Finland’s model works for them, I – and some brave academics argue – because they have a unique cluster of characteristics including a high-quality early childcare system, and a largely culturally homogenous society with a small population.
Indeed, holes are being punched into the Finnish miracle, with the Program for International Student Assessment showing that Finland’s status is slipping (if you’re going to judge things by standardised tests, that is).
In 2012 – the latest scores available – Finland fell out of the international top 10, with top PISA performers all hailing from Asia.
Australia, meanwhile, is a dog’s breakfast of starting ages. In NSW, children can start kindergarten if they turn five by July 31 but by law they must be in school by their sixth birthday. In Victoria, by contrast, children need to turn five by April 30.
NSW parents are increasingly holding their children back….