In New Zealand, parents are free to send their children to school between the age of five and six at any point throughout the school year (which follows the calendar year). However by the time a child reaches six years old, parents are legally obligated to enroll their child into a school. However, the choice is theirs regarding what term, what week and even what day they want their child to start before the age of six. This means that New Entry teachers (similar to P1 and the other early year teachers) don’t start their year with their full class like in many other countries. Instead, children join them as the terms go on.
Like Scotland, children’s schooling officially begins at primary school. If it’s a ‘full’ primary school (like St Josephs), children stay there from five to 12 years old. If it’s a ‘contributing’ primary school they will move onto to an ‘intermediate’ school for their last two primary school years, from 11-12 years old. Intermediate schools, where they’re available, provide a bridge to the next step of secondary school (which is also sometimes called college, high school or grammar school).
The school years are numbered 1 to 13. Years 0 to 8 are the primary years and years 9 to 13 are the secondary years. Children in primary schools are generally aged 5 to 12 years. In some areas children go to an intermediate school for years 7 and 8. It can become more complicated if a child of 5 years starts school in the second half of the year. Schools sometimes refer to them as year 0 for the second half of the year. If they start school in the first half of the year they will be referred to as year 1.
This system obviously varies quite dramatically to that of Scotland’s and it’s taken me a few weeks to completely get my head around (in fact, I’m not 100% sure I’m quite there yet!). The topic of conversation of comparing new entry in NZ to Scotland came up in the staff room and to be honest, it seemed to cause rather a lot of confusion! As I briefly explained that all children at home start school together at the beginning of the academic year, which starts in August (this alone caused enough confusion as in NZ, the academic year follows the calendar year due to the seasons being the opposite to how they are at home!), and that depending on when a child’s birthday falls in the year they could either be four or five years old, it suddenly dawned on me why this could be so daunting to someone who hasn’t grown up in the country! It certainly was an interesting conversation, that’s for sure. However despite all the little differences in how and when children start school in either country, both are edging towards making children start school at a younger age. This appears to go directly against the philosophy behind the success of the education system in a country such as Finland, which is currently ranking number 1 in many different PISA results. I recently came across an article explaining why children in New Zealand might be starting school as young as four years old and what this means for schools, pre-school education and teachers…
For more information, here is the government’s help and advice page designed to help parents enroll their children to a school: https://parents.education.govt.nz/primary-school/your-child-at-school/enrolling-and-starting-your-child-at-school/