Dear David Coleman: My son will be four-and-a-half this September. Should I send him to school, or wait another full year?
Q I was wondering if you had any thoughts on the ideal age to start a child in primary school? My son has a February birthday, so we are debating whether to start him in primary school at four-and-a-half, which would be this September, or delay by a year and send him at five-and-a-half. It seems everyone has an opinion and we are addled trying to decide!
David Coleman replies: Your son has a tricky birthday for deciding about when to start school. There are a few factors to consider when making the decision.
The first may be a pragmatic one; going to school may reduce childcare costs and that could be an important consideration for your family.
The other factor to consider is your son's maturity at a social, emotional and physical level and, consequently, his readiness for school.
Can he mix okay with other children? Does he cope okay with separation, with tiredness, with frustration and with correction? Can he manage all the buttonings and fastenings of his clothes if he needs to go to the bathroom?
Can he sit relatively still for the time that will be required in school? Does he seem to have the dexterity and the focus that will be needed for the more academic aspects of school?
If he seems ready socially, emotionally and physically, then starting at four-and-a-half may be okay.
Generally, however, older usually equates to greater maturity, so I would err on the side of waiting another full year, such that he is five-and-a- half.