22 Nov 2017

Fifth birthday school starts back on table

7:06 pm on 22 November 2017

Children will not be able to start school before their fifth birthday under changes proposed by the new government.

School child and mother

School child and mother Photo: 123RF

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said this was in response to "overwhelming feedback" during the select committee process.

"I've asked the ministry to draft an amendment to the law that will limit cohort entry to children over five years old... That amendment will be progressed next year as part of a wider tidy up of the Education Act. In the meantime, the law as it stands continues to apply."

However the move has been labelled "nanny-state and ideologically driven" by National.

National changed the law to allow children to enroll in groups at the start of the term, meaning some would start, at the most, eight weeks before they turned five rather than wait until the next term.

Its education spokesperson Nikki Kaye said the new government was taking away a parent's choice to start their child a few months earlier.

"The Education Minister believes he knows better than parents," she said.

"Cohort entry is about helping children to settle better in school. Many parents know that a child arriving at school on their own can feel self-conscious and out of place. Experts on early learning argued for this change because they believe it will make the transition easier."

The government said it would keep cohort entry, but only allow children who had already turned five.

In response to Ms Kaye's accusation that the move was "nanny-state", Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the term was thrown around "willy-nilly".

"You can be assured that when we make these decisions, they are in the best interest of children and making sure our education system is operating as smoothly as we can," Ms Ardern said.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs