What age to start school?

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    I will open the old debate on what age should your child start school. My DS was just accepted to Junior Infants. He will be 4 in July. The school did express concern that he "might be" too young. So I am up in the air. I always intended on sending him but now I am not sure. If he was 4 in May I don’t think I would hesitate. But whats 2 months? DH wants him to go and I am between 2 minds. Am thinking of accepting the place and then in the summer if I feel he is not ready, then I can decline it. Anyone with similar issues? Or experience. Would appreciate other mothers advice as this is my first child to start school. Won’t have the problem with my DD as she was born in October. He is a bright child and a great mixer.


    My sister has a little girl starting school this year and she won’t be 4 until June. She debated this one too but her little girl is so bright and ‘ready’ to move on and learn more. She was in creche and they moved her into a montessori class to keep her stimulated.

    I think every child is unique and the age is for guidelines only. Once a child starts school before 6 they can start whenever suits you and the school of course.

    My own started in Sept. and one was 5 in the October, 5 in the December (2 of them) and 5 the following February. Two did preschool and two didnt. But they all settled in and were ‘ready’ and wanting to go to school when they started.

    A good question to ask the school is from the previous years, of the chidren who were kept back to repeat Junior Infants, was it age related or more boys than girls etc. This might give you a good idea of how it works for other children in a similar age bracket.

    I know the year my son started jnr infants a few of his friends had to repeat jnr infants and I was suprised at the amount. I don’t know if it was an age thing or an ability thing.

    But if he is bright and mixes well and is ‘excited’ by school he should be fine. If he had problems you can repeat at some stage if needed.

    Good Luck. Its a tough decision.


    Thanks Mummy 5! Really appreciate your reply. Good idea to ask the school how the younger puplis in junior infants are faring out this year. I have to speak to the montessori also but I know they have been advised by local schools to encourage parents to keep the child until they are almost 5 to start school. I guess parents will say one thing and then the teachers will say another. There is no right or wrong answer to this I guess. Its an individual decision as each child is different. He is learning to recognise all his letters and knows all his numbers. He keeps checking the clock and telling me what time it is!! And his irish words are quite good too. Sometimes he surprises me by what he knows. The childminder who looks after him when not at montessori has an 8 yr old girl and 10 yr old boy. So my DS always seemed advanced having spent so much time in their company. I heard of books I can buy for home reading to prepare him even more. I must check the book shop for them. Many thanks again! Ruthie.


    hi, I’m in exactly the same positionto you! my little girl will be 4 in July. I was surprised that she was accepted this year, so we didn’t have long to make the ‘big decision’…. she has been in playschool for 2 yrs and they say she is advanced for her age, so that was a good start.. we had our first little girl starting school last year so dd2 is exposed to the whole school routine etc, she loves getting stuck into trying the homework etc. we have decided now 100% to send her anyway and keep a close eye on things. I think she will be so bored with another year at home, i think 5 is too old really – the curriculum is based for 4 yr olds. we know from dd1 that they really do start from scratch – they don’t need to know anything beforehand at all (most do) but teachers have a special way of doing things and some kids have bad habits etc. My only concern is that some people wait till their kids are well over 5, that leaves an unfair advantage ie. bigger etc. it’s a tough decision, but i know of quite a few young 4’s starting.. i hope this helps. i was in the same boat as you, but as i’ve said made the decision and accepted the place.. 😉




    Thanks to you both for replying. When I read Mum2 reply I was more positive about sending him. then when I read BigSister I had my concerns again!! Actually if I am honest, its not primary school that I am overly concerned about, its when he goes to secondary school, he would be 16 (going on 17) doing his leaving cert. It seems so young. I am banking on Transition Year to keep him there another year. Thats interesting about the secondary schools and their entrance age limits. Thats worth checking out too especially if the schools may not let him stay back because of his age. Looks like I have a bit of homework to do. Will let u know my decision. Thanks girls. Ruthie.


    Oh Ruthie, I’m sorry for putting a spanner in the works, but I just wanted you to be aware of the situation.

    More bad news 🙁 🙁 🙁 ………

    There is talk of transition year being scrapped due to cutbacks……Sorry

    But this recession isn’t going to last forever and things will be different by the time your little one is heading to secondary


    Not at all BigSister! You’re fine. I respect everyones opinion. If I was 100% about sending him I wouldn’t even raise the question. The fact that I am constantly asking everyone else their opinion makes me reaslise I am really unsure about sending him at 4. I actually wrote down all the pro’s and con’s to weigh it all up. And I my list of con’s is much bigger than the pro’s! so what does that say? I was thinking of TY in secondary but the child may not want to do it when the time comes. I know I certainly wasn’t interested in an extra year at school when I went. And to expect him to have to stay back because of his age is also unfair. Am gonna have a chat with DH this evening. I need to make my mind up once and for all. thanks again for all your replies.


    Hi Ruthie

    Both my boys are August babies. DS1 started when he had just turned 4. He is now in 4th class and is 9. He is doing very well at school and is top of his class in most subjects.

    DS2 didnt start till he had turned 5. School had changed their policies about the starting age and anyway there is no way he would have been ready for school at the same age his brother started. He is doing really well too.

    I do worry about secondary school too, but its a few years off yet.



    it’s one of those tricky topics isn’t it what to do, what age is right etc etc…i think it depends on the child and his or her capabilities to deal not only with the work load and learning but emotionally too….i do think it’s important to look at the other end of the scale when the child will be finishing school and how that will affect them going into the big bad world of real life….
    i’m shocked to think that transition year will be cut, we had to do it in school, granted for some it gave adoss year but we had structure in our year, study time, which i admit i did not do and regret that now, but we learned new skills like computer and using the net which i’ve mastered now lol…..but we also had work experience which really opened my eyes of what i would like to do….and beleive it or not ended up doing 2 courses after school in the industry that i did my work experience in and loved it but in the end it’s not what i ended up doing…..but it gave me the chance to taste the world….
    i think when leaving school most don’t know what to do, you’ve been in this enviroment for so long that there’s a shock factor when it’s gone and only years later ya wish you were back in school, and i think when ya become a parent school and choices and education become very important decision making times, which as a teenager you thought it would never be….
    i know some kids that are school going age and may be ready emotionally but they just aren’t ready to sit and learn then there are others that are younger and so eager to learn and you wonder are they ready to come out of that baby age? but each parent will know by their own child how their child copes and this should be evident by what they have done in playschool if they have gone etc, their teacher may be able to advise ya, whether they see that they child would struggle or if the child has that thirst in him or her to learn and enjoy school…..
    i think for parents we’re the ones that need to take the emotional step back and look practically at the situation…..and most important is parents need to be on bord with the whole learning experience, some parents find it a chore which drives me nuts, but at the end of the day if you encourage your child and sit with your child while they do lessons at home from school you will know their strenghts and weaknesses and you can interveen before they get to secondary school age and find that they are not able…
    think hard about your decision, pros and cons do help but look at your child’s abilities and emotional factor and include them, and make a promise that you will be there if you decide to send now and if you feel the child struggles inisist the child stay back in the early years…..
    best of luck with your decision, go with your gut and you can’t go wrong….

    sorry for long waffle


    My ds went to school the year he turned 4 in May. Knew he was ready, I think everyone knows their own childs ability. he is in 2nd class now, will be 8 May 15th and making his communion the next day so he wil be the right age for communion hahaha.

    he will have just turned 17 in May to do his leaving cert in June and to be honest I’m not really going to worry about that now , cos as of now he is doing brillant in school.

    I did my leaving at 17 ( in the jan) and my bro did his at 17 too(just turned 17 the day of his first leaving cert english paper) and both started college at 17 too. I have to say it hasnt made one bit of difference to us re getting jobs etc.

    I reckon you should go with your gut instinct as its your child at the end of the day and you know whats best.

    this topic comes up every year on several diff boards and all people can do is give opnions.

    If you send your ds this sept and they find that he is not ready, or not coping etc he will just repeat junior infants, which wont be a major upheavel as he wouldnt really have made "best friends" as such and can adapt to the cahnge of a new class.


    Am really happy with all this advice. Didn’t expect so many replies! Had chat with DH last night. I think he is fed up with me constantly changing my mind. He really wants to send DS but says I tend to make all the decisions!! I will make appt to see his montessori teacher and discuss his progress and ability to go to big school. I will keep his school place for now and have a good think about it before finally deciding. He is very keen to learn, always asking questions. We do the bedtime reading and he wants to go through each word to learn all his letters so I can see he is really eager to learn. I guess a lot can happen with school by the time he gets to secondary so I should probably worry about that when the time comes. I have a friend whos DS turned 4 in mid May last year and she sent him in the September. She has absolutely no regrets and encourages me to do the same. Ok girls – really appreciate all the advice. I will post my decision – it may not be for a while yet tho! LOL!!! 😛


    Hi Ruthie,

    I just thought i’d let u know this little issue! My cousin has her little girls name down in the school she is sending her this 2yrs. She will b 4 around now. She got a phone call last wk to tell her that they wll NOT b taking her this Sept, as she is the wrong side of 4!! She has to b 4 b4 the end of March…… Now her little girl is sssssoooo well able 4 school!!! But they are def not taking her!! Alot of the schools in town r doing this and the country schools r following!

    I hope the school doesn’t take the decision away from u.


    Thank you JR! That may well happen – I can’t be too sure. But if it does, then it prob makes the decision easier for me. Its unfair of schools to accept the child and then voice their concern over the childs age.Either they want the 4 year olds or they don’t. I would prefer if my school – which is a country one – would state a month eg. April, that the child must be 4. That way it makes it much easier all round. I have an Open Day with them in early June so I will make my final decision then. Oh, and this budget on Thursday might make the decision for me!! Unfortunate I know, but depending on how we are financially, he may well be going to school in September! We both work full-time so its full-time childcare for DS and DD. Thanks again JR.


    My ds will be 4 in july he is a very clever little lad, he can count to 66!!! He isnt so hot with his ABC’s but he can write from 1 to 8 and he cant Write his name without any help at all…… so I believe he is well able for school this year…. but he wont be going because on the emotional side he doesnt mix well, he still lashes out if things dont go his way and he isnt great in big numbers and woudnt be able to cope with 30 odd kids in a class never mind 300 in the playground.

    I started school the day I was four 22nd of sept… 3 weeks later then my classmates, i was fine but it ended up I was 15 years old for the first 3 weeks of 6th year in school, did my leaving cert at 16 and got my first choice place in Collage in Galway but my father wouldnt let me go as I was too young!!!!!

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