Compulsory attendance upon starting school

Currently, the Education Act 1989 does not require children enrolled in school to attend regularly until the age of six. Some parents have interpreted this to mean that it is acceptable for their child to attend school irregularly until their sixth birthday. Intermittent attendance can establish poor attitudes to learning and school and hinder progress and achievement.

The Education (Update) Amendment Bill proposes to extend the requirement for regular attendance at school to children enrolled in school under the age of six. Regular attendance in the first year of school supports the development of positive dispositions to learning and provides a sound foundation for future learning and achievement.

Where a child with special education needs would benefit from a staggered transition to school, a transition plan could be agreed between the child’s parents, the enrolling school, and the Ministry of Education. The child would then be required to attend in accordance with that plan.

Further information

When will these changes take effect?

The Bill is expected to come into force in 2017.

Who will these changes affect?

These changes will affect children under six who are enrolled in school and the parents of these children.

Does this mean that children will have to enrol in school as soon as they turn five?

No. As now, children will not be required to be enrolled in school until their sixth birthday. The requirement for regular attendance will only apply once a child’s parents have enrolled them in school.

Why is there an exception for some children?

Currently, some children with special education needs attend school part-time in their first year as part of a managed transition process. Research suggests that staggered transitions can be effective for these children, so this option needs to still be available.

What if my child starts school but is not ready?

Parents will need to consider whether their children are ready for regular attendance at school before enrolling them.

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