Sunday 18th March 2018

School Starting Ages. 366/89.

School Starting Ages. 366/89.

This post was one I planned earlier in the year. I have held it till now which is almost (and actually for some) end of Term One. Many families may be gearing up to get organised for the start of school in 2017 (and beyond) and I hope this may help. It may also bring up even more questions for you. Please check the post and ask any questions which I “may” be able able to help with in comments.

Starting School Is Different Around Australia.

I’ve been a K-6 school principal but retired from this role in 2003. There were many differences back then to the name of the ‘first’ year of school and the ‘starting ages’ and ‘cut off dates’ for enrolment.

My experience has only been in NSW Government Schools. However as a blogger who has readers throughout Australia (and beyond!) I have made it my business to learn more about changes since then.

It is a long, convoluted and politically driven path.

It is beyond the scope of my blog to try to explain the reasoning except like this:

there are many proponents for change to occur Australia-wide in K-6 (I am using the NSW form) education/schooling but they are often delated or abandoned because of political reasons. Read into that what you will, and I have written about the politicization of education before. It is now mandated and the way in which we are governed.

Long ago I wrote about some of the differences in States and Territories for Starting School. This time I enlisted help from parents in those states and territories and here’s where it all got too much for me!  I know, I got more confused.

I am still shaking my head at why/how this still occurs in our ONE country of Australia. To this end, I can only offer this:

We have kids in their first years of school in cohorts called:






NB: the Australian Curriculum which is mandatory is called F-12 curriculum. So, another title has entered the name game. Foundation.

We have kids starting that first year of school with dates and age limits summed up here:

NSW: Four, turning five by July 31

Vic: Four, turning five by April 30

Qld: Four, turning five by July 31

SA: Four-and-a-half on January 1

WA: Four, turning five by June 30

Tas: Five on January 1

NT: Four, turning five by June 30

ACT: Four, turning five by April 30

We have class sizes (the government/public/state schools only) for the first year at school which vary from 20 to 25+


There could be much more I could say but instead I have selected a small number of other sources for you, dear Reader.



and this one:

So, does this seem like we are all on the same page in Australia in our approach to ‘starting school’?

How much of this was news to you?

Have you needed to move states?

How has this affected you and your family?

Further to the discussion about NSW school age for starting: NSW (the only legislation with which I am familiar) A child needs to start by the time he or she has turned 6. Therefore if your child is 6 by or on 31 July of the year of starting, then that complied the ‘starting school legislation. The only ‘have to’ situation is this one. This is why it is about parental choice and there can be….in an extreme situation children who are 4 and a half (July/June turning 5) in a class with children who has already had his/her 6th birthday. 

I welcome your comments.

Thank you.


education 150

Joining Jess at Essentially Jess for I Blog On Tuesdays.










  1. I’m in nsw. 4 seems so very young to start school! I know some kids are ready sooner than others but surely none will be disadvantaged by waiting a little?

    • Hi Amy, yes it is young for many but they are actually 4 and a half…(not just turned 4) because they have to turn 5 by end July and school start is end January (6 months difference) BUT in some families’ cases (true of areas where I worked in Western Sydney) the children commence not based on what many of us might call ‘readiness’ but on no longer having to pay for any child care costs. I saw this a great deal. Hard on the kids (in some cases) but fact of life for those families. Thanks for popping in today! Denyse

  2. Don’t you basically get two options in NSW? Can’t they be 5 or turning 5 by 31 July in the year they start school? My son started this year and he was 5.5, turns 6 in late July. He could have started last year at 4.5 but we ‘held him back’! It’s ridiculously complicated and there should be national consistently!

    • Claire, thank you so much for alerting me to something I now need to ‘add’ to the post…more stuff! in NSW (the only legislation with which I am familiar) A child needs to start by the time he or she has turned 6. Therefore if your child is 6 by or on 31 July of the year of starting, then that complied the ‘starting school legislation. The only ‘have to’ situation is this one. This is why it is about parental choice and there can be….in an extreme situation children who are 4 and a half (July/June turning 5) in a class with children who has already had his/her 6th birthday. Thanks for commenting for the first time too! Much appreciated! Denyse

  3. It’s all a bit confusing if you ask me. When I was a kid it seemed much simpler. You started grade one at the start of the year you turned six. In NZ, you start school on your fifth birthday! Not much of a birthday present if you ask me 🙂 #teamIBOT

    • It certainly is Renee. I didnt know that about New Zealand school start days. Wow. Does it still happen like that? Denyse PS that must mean kids are starting all through the year!! NSW has cut off dates.

  4. It’s so crazy how different it is!
    When we moved nothing really changed for us, except that Ava waited six months longer to start kindy and my oldest girls were so much younger than everyone else in the class. Even now there are kids in the grades below them who are older than them.

    • Yes I thought about you and your family with the move and starting schools in a new state. It is ‘crazy’ but our nation cannot get its act together in education thanks to the politicisation of it. Makes me mad too. Denyse.

  5. I am in Victoria, both a parent and teacher. I would always err on the side of sending kids to school a little later (in the year they turn 6). My brother repeated a year when we went overseas – best thing for him being a little bit older. As a parent, myself, I’ve seen how that added maturity is helpful in the pressured Year 11 and 12 years. As a teacher I see how much of a difference that maturity makes socially, emotionally and academically, even in early Primary years.

    I really think it would be very helpful for Australia to tighten up its laws, nationally, so that all states do the same thing in terms of starting school. Now that we have a national curriculum, surely that would make sense. We have family members that have moved states and it has been quite tricky.

    • Thank you very much Tracy for your perspective as both a parent and a teacher. What I have noticed in some of the higher socio-economic areas I’ve worked in is that there can be an ‘automatic’ response to ‘what are you starting (kids name) at school?’ and everyone ‘thinks’ it best to keep them at home/childcare/preschool until they are 6. It is not always the best scenario for every child and I always pointed out to parents as an advisor that ‘they know their child best’. Much appreciated comment for the discussion here! best wishes, Denyse

  6. To be quite honest, I hadn’t really taken any notice of what other states are doing. We are in Queensland and my son (turns 5 in December) starts prep next year. To me he seems too young, at that age I was doing a morning or afternoon session at pre-school painting, playing, having fun and so I do worry about the formality of prep and what it seems they have to learn at such a young age. But, who knows, I can’t really make comment until we experience it ourselves and see how our son goes. Who knows, he could absolutely love it and thrive!

    • It will surprise you Eva as the year progresses (we are 8 months away from his birthday month) how much your son will change and develop a readiness for school. When I was advising pre school families in NSW I used to say, it is almost a 5th of your child’s life yet to come! So, keeping that in mind, I can hazard a guess that he will be ready…but will you? Denyse x

  7. I am so confused by the Aussie systems. I’ve come from a place where the school starts on 1 Sept XXxx and your child joins a year group born 1 Sept XXxx to 31 Aug XXxx+1. Anywhere in the UK. The system is hopelessly politicised (so I’m not trying to say the grass is greener: it isn’t), but you only have 1 Govt to contend with. A small mercy.
    We started our Aus odyssey in SA. I had more or less got my head round that. Now we’re in QLD as you know (in the secondary end of schooling) and I am lost. Plus, my girls can’t study at uni outside SA because the entry requirements differ nationally, too. ARGGHHHH!!

    • I am confused too. I said in other parts of this post that we are a highly politicised education system as education in Australia has always been state/territory responsibility and within each of those states there are even further demarkations – public, private and faith based systems. In a clumsy yet timely way the nation continues to try to get states to agree to many policy and planning matters via joint meetings (they’re having one now re health) but we are state-centric still. A bit of carrot and stick was applied for funding in the labour years when My School was set up and this is a national matter. I really cant keep writing LOL…BUT I am perturbed about why your girls cannot access Uni any other place that SA…University education is federal. So, I cannot understand this one. Remember though Jo, we are a January to December school system unlike the northern hemisphere. Gosh, another post for a comment! Denyse xx

  8. My son was 5 turning 6 when he started school because he missed the cut off and honestly it was better for him. He just wasn’t emotionally ready for school when he was 4 turning 5.

    • It can be ‘better’ when the choice is not there cant it Tegan? Glad it worked out for your son. In our case, our daughter couldn’t start school until the following year either. Cheers, Denyse