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Parents Panel: How did you decide the right age for big school?

Irish kids must start education before age six – but figuring out when they’re ready can be tricky.


AS PART OF TheJournal.ie’s weekly Family Magazine, we wanted to create a space for parents to share their views. A place where mums and dads could share their experiences, lessons learned, and even mistakes along the way. 

This week’s topic: school enrollment and figuring out when your child is ready to take the leap. How did you decide the right age for big school? Here’s what our panel had to say…

Parents Panel All 7

Top L-R: Olly Keegan, Alan Dooley, Denise, Ken Hyland. Middle L-R: Ríona Flood, Ross Boxshall, Marta Lisiecka, Denise Cumiskey. Bottom L-R: Kait Quinn, Susannah O’Brien, Derek McInerney, Suzie Kelly

One was ready at four, one at five: Our approach varied with each of our kids. Rhiannon was ready for school at four, her speech was great and she loved school work. Rosie stayed in preschool until she was five, because with the way her birthday fell, we felt she could do with the extra year.

- Susannah O’Brien

Our youngest was dying to get started: By age four, both our sons were ready for the challenge of ‘big school.’ In fact they looked forward to it. The youngest of the two, Nathan, probably had it easiest as he had already seen Daniel do it and wanted to be just like him.

- Ken Hyland

Emotionally and socially, four’s just too young: There’s a lot to be said for just waiting that extra year. Our son turns four in May. We think he’d be well fit for the academic side of things, but emotionally and socially, four is quite young, so we’ll hold off. Plus, we have to consider what age he’d be at ‘the other end’ when he finishes up with school.

- Olly Keegan

mike-fox-467489 Source: Unsplash

I’d have him wait until six or seven if I could: Growing up in Poland I started school at seven, and in countries like Finland it’s the same. Tymek’s only one but we’ve already had to choose his school start date as the local Educate Together is first come, first serve. We decided to extend the date by a year so he won’t start until he’s five and a half.

- Marta Lisiecka

He was more than ready at four: I have friends that thought their child was too young at four and deferred enrollment, but I felt my son was more than ready. Only you can know what the right approach is, really. His little brother is due to start in September and is itching to get going.

- Suzie Kelly

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I’m waiting another full year: When my 16 and 21 year old were young, going to school at four was the done thing across the board. However once the topic of college came up later on, I realised they’d be very young finishing school (just 16 in my son’s case). I made them both do Transition Year for that reason. I’ll be keeping my toddler in preschool until she’s five and a half.

- Denise Cumiskey

image3 (1) Source: Ross Boxshall

I hope we’ve made the right choice: With each child we allowed birthdays to dictate their start date. The timing worked out well with our first born who started school aged four and a half. The twins will start a month short of their fifth birthday. We hope it’ll be the right time for them too, as getting it wrong could impact their next 14 years of schooling!

- Ross Boxshall

We’ll be flexible if he needs another year: This question recently came up in my local mums’ group chat with a good bit of debate. Charlie was born in November so the plan is to have him start Junior Infants just before his fifth birthday. I think we’ll aim to be flexible though, so if it seems he needs an extra year in pre-school at that point we’ll hold on.

- Kait Quinn

More Parents Panel: How do you manage childcare for your kids?

More Parents Panel: What do you put in your child’s lunchbox?

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