The best interests of children should be the major driver of any change to policies around initial school enrolments, not cost cutting or administrative simplicity, Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins says.
“The introduction of school cohort entry is being driven by administrative convenience rather than the needs of the child. Many other countries have children starting school much later, some at seven years old, while the New Zealand government seeks to allow four year olds to start school.
“When asked to explain why the Government had decided against allowing children to start school at the beginning of the closest term after their fifth birthday, officials provided detailed advice as to the likely cost to the education system, including the cost of children remaining in early childhood education longer.
“Clearly the policy of allowing children to start school before their fifth birthday is being driven by a desire to cut costs, rather than a desire to do what is in the best interests of the child.
“The ability of New Zealand new entrant teachers to cater for individual children’s needs as they arrive at school after their fifth birthday is internationally admired. Allowing tailored support around this critical transition has also been supported by the Education Review Office.
“No research has been presented to demonstrate that cohort entry will be better for the child. No submitters to the Education Select Committee argued in favour of four year olds being allowed to enrol in school.
“This is yet another example of the National Government cutting costs and cutting corners to the detriment of future generations,” Chris Hipkins says.