The School Staring Age Debate Rages On


You may have recently heard the news that children in New Zealand will no longer be able to start school prior to turning five years old. The issue has become very political, with some people celebrating the new rule, others angry, and others still arguing that we should be keeping kids in childcare longer and waiting until they are six or even seven to start school. 

The experienced North Shore childcare team at Learning Tree aren’t fond of the negative tone this issue has taken on. We think parents should feel empowered and positive when making any major family decision. 

We’d never want parents to feel badly about their views on when it’s best to stop daycare and send their child to school, so instead of weighing into the debate, we thought we’d do a little research into how different countries around the world tackle the school start age conundrum. 


The exact rules across the ditch vary based on state, making the school start age quite a complicated topic in Aus. School generally starts at five, but the cut-off date varies, meaning that in some states kids often start earlier, while in others waiting until five is the norm. Not only this, but Australia has different names for the first year of school, from kindergarten to prep to pre-primary and more. Confusing, right?! 

United States of America 

In America, it is compulsory to start school in grade one at six years old, but many parents opt for an additional year, sending their children to kindergarten when they are five. 


The English system works similarly to our old system in New Zealand. Children reach school age once they turn five years old, but those who turn five after the cut-off date start in a ‘reception class’. 

Northern Ireland 

Northern Ireland, on the other hand, has the youngest child enrolment age in Europe, with the rule changing in 1989 to have school starting for wee ones at only four years old.  

Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany 

These are just a handful of the many, many European countries who start school at six years old. Interestingly, Denmark lowered the age from seven to six in 2008. 


Notably, this Scandinavian country has a very late school start age of seven years old. 

Whatever age your child starts school, we are making sure to prepare them well at Learning Tree Childcare!

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