Changed prep rule sparks queries

AN ADDITIONAL 5000 children state-wide will now be eligible to start prep school next week after the Queensland Department of Education changed the eligibility age for prep school from four years of age by June 30 to four years of age by July 31.

The reform occurred abruptly over the school holidays on January 1, leaving many parents confused about what to do next.

The change means children born in July 2010, who were just outside the kindergarten eligibility requirements last year, can skip their kindergarten year altogether and enrol directly into prep in 2015, if deemed capable by parents and the school principal.

Independent Education Union Queensland and Northern Territory branch secretary Terry Burke expressed concern over the loss of a kindergarten year.

"Kindergarten is an integral part of a child's learning experience, which provides them with the skills they need to thrive and succeed in ... further schooling," he said.

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"The potential for Queensland children to miss out on kindergarten as a result of this abrupt change is disappointing and could have lasting negative impacts on schooling experiences."

The cut-off dates in most other Australian states is April or May, with New South Wales and now Queensland the only states with a July cut-off date.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education said the reform gave parents the choice to seek to enrol eligible children into prep early if they considered them to be educationally, emotionally and physically ready. The reform does not change the current flexibility for parents to delay their child's start in prep.

Early entry into prep is at the discretion of principals, based on an assessment of the child's attributes.

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