Quality of teaching matters more than child's start age
A variety of factors come into play for parents in deciding when a child should start primary school. School enrolment policies, the availability of the free pre-school year, work commitments, availability and cost of childcare, as well as the perceived "readiness" of the child may all be factors in motivating parents' decisions.
Whether in pre-school or in school, young children need experiences that will enable them to reach their full potential in all aspects of learning and development.
The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment developed Aistear: The Early Childhood Curriculum Framework to support parents, pre-school and infant class teachers in this.
It is regrettable that while many teachers of infants are now familiar with this framework, most pre-school educators have not been given this opportunity.
It really doesn't matter whether children start school at four or five, what really matters is the quality of the education the child receives.
We have very good quality assurance regarding children's development and learning in infant classes, the situation is less certain in terms of ascertaining quality of preschool provision, especially in areas related to children's engagement with early literacy and numeracy.
We know from research that every child benefits greatly from a high-quality early education, but the need is even greater for children living with disadvantage.
Indeed, a recent OECD report suggested that these children would really benefit from more than one year of preschool.
Siolta, the National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education, supports educators in providing quality provision of early care and education. The key indicator though, is the quality of the interactions between the child and the educator.
Liz Dunphy is a senior lecturer in Early Childhood Education at St Patrick's College of Education, Drumcondra, Dublin .