By: Ben Flood

Philipa Johnson, Year 1 teacher at Lynmore Primary School welcomes change in new entrant enrolment. Photo/Ben Flood

Two Rotorua primary schools will be among the first in the country to test out a new enrolment system that will see an end to the time-honoured tradition of children starting school on their 5th birthday.

Lynmore Primary School and Otonga Rd Primary School have committed to piloting a cohort enrolment scheme in 2018.

Cohort entry is a system where children up to the age of 6 can enter primary school with a group of other children based on whether they are ready to make the jump from early childcare.

At the moment, most children are enrolled in primary school on their 5th birthday.

“This [cohort] system gives the power back to the parents to decide when their child is ready for school because no one knows their children better than them,” Lynmore Primary School principal Lorraine Taylor said.

Ms Taylor said it was a parent initiative that sparked the idea after the school organised a presentation by neuroscience and education expert Nathan Mikaere Wallis in May.

“Nathan talked about how children aren’t necessarily ready for school just because they turned 5 and he mentioned the cohort approach. The parents loved the idea and we have been developing it ever since.”

Lynmore Year 1 teacher Philipa Johnson has been heavily involved in the transition to cohort enrolment and is ready for the change.

“We’ll be taking on two new groups of children per term and I’m all on board,” she said.

There will be an information evening held at Lynmore Primary School on November 30 to inform parents of the plans and dates for cohort enrolment.

Otonga Rd Primary School is also planning on starting a cohort enrolment in 2018, but principal Linda Woon said the details were still in the consultation period and would not be finalised until January.

“I’ve been interested in cohort entry for years but it didn’t become a possibility until the recent changes were made to the Education Act which allowed us to consult the idea with our communities.”

Ms Woon said there were multiple benefits that came with the cohort system and the school had received positive feedback from parents regarding the change.

“It benefits the children because it gives them great comfort when they start school with a group who are feeling the same way as them. It really helps them develop friendships quickly as well.”

She said the change would also relieve stress from teachers as they would not have to worry about introducing new pupils randomly throughout the year.

Ministry of Education Sector Enablement and Support associate deputy secretary Suze Strowger said cohort entry was about helping children settle better in school.

“There is evidence that starting school alongside other children helps build relationships and supports a smoother entry to school life.

“For new entrant teachers there are benefits in preparing for groups of children arriving on a specific date, rather than on an individual and ad hoc basis throughout the year.

She said so far a “relatively small number of schools” had advised the Ministry they were moving to cohort entry.

Source: Rotorua Daily Post

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