Consultation on options for cohort entry

In 2018 we consulted on changes to the law so that children can still start school in groups, but only after they have turned 5.

About cohort entry

In 2017 the Education Act was changed to enable schools to adopt a cohort entry policy.

This means that children attending a school with cohort entry start in groups. Children can start with a group at the beginning of the term closest to their fifth birthday, or with any later group, up until they turn 6.

Starting school as part of a group can help children build relationships, and help schools manage the transition process. But this policy means some children can start school up to 2 months before their fifth birthday.

The Minister of Education has announced their intention to change the law so that children can still start school in groups, but only after they have turned 5. This is in line with the recommendation of the 2015 Advisory Group on Early Learning.

How changes will affect schools

Schools that have adopted a cohort entry policy for 2018, or are already in the process of introducing a cohort entry policy, will still be able to start new entrants before their fifth birthday (under current settings) until the legislation is changed.

Following the change, these schools would need to consult with their communities again, to decide whether to adopt the new model of cohort entry or whether to return to continuous entry (where children can start school at any time between age 5 and 6).

More information on the transition will be available during the legislative process.

Regardless of the model of cohort entry in the Education Act, schools will continue to have the right to retain continuous entry instead, with all students able to start school on or after their fifth birthday.

And parents will continue to have the right to not start their child at school until they think they are ready – up until the age of 6.

Where a school has adopted cohort entry, children can start with any cohort once they are eligible to start school - there is no requirement that children start with the first cohort they are eligible for.

Our consultation process

Prior to this change being progressed, we are consulting with the public on 2 options for cohort entry for children over 5. Children could start in groups once a term, or twice a term.

Cohort entry once a term would mean children would start school at the beginning of each term.

Cohort entry twice a term would mean that children would start school at the beginning of the term or at the term mid-point, depending on where in the term their birthday lies.

The consultation also seeks views on whether schools should be able to adopt either of these options, in consultation with their communities, instead of only having one option in legislation.

Have your say

Submissions on the consulation document closed 19 March 2018.

Submissions will become public information. This means that a member of the public may ask for a copy of your submission from us under the Official Information Act 1982. Any submission summary we create as a result of this consultation may also mention your submission.

Consultation documents

Consultation on options for cohort entry document [PDF, 502 KB]

Information releases on cohort entry options

Information releases on issues for legislation in 2018

Consultation document — web version

What is cohort entry

Cohort entry is when new entrants to school start in groups at specific times of the year

There are 2 different ways that schools can start new entrants. Most schools use continuous entry where new entrants start on their fifth birthday or a date soon afterwards that their parents choose. A smaller number of schools have cohort entry. This is when new entrants start as a group at specific times during the year.

Parents can choose not to start their child at school until their sixth birthday, regardless of whether the school has continuous or cohort entry. All children must start school by their sixth birthday.

The law was changed in 2017 to make it easier for schools to have cohort entry

Cohort entry has been around for a while, but the law said that a school with cohort entry had to accept a child to start school when parents wanted a different starting date from one the schools set (cohort entry).

The change to the law in 2017 has made it easier for schools to use cohort entry. This change lets schools choose to fully adopt cohort entry after they’ve consulted with their school staff, the parents of current and future students, and local early childhood services and kōhanga reo.

New entrants at these schools can only start in groups at the beginning of each term. The earliest they can start school is the beginning of the term closest to their fifth birthday. This means that some children at these schools can start school when they are 4, if their parents think they’re ready.

Forty-seven schools have told us they’ve fully adopted cohort entry in 2018.

If a school doesn’t have cohort entry, parents can continue to start their child at the school on a date they choose, once their child has turned 5.

The Government wants to change the law on cohort entry so children don't start school before they are five

The Government wants to keep cohort entry, but change the law so new entrants have to be 5 when they start school.

Starting new entrants as a group can help children to settle better into school, build relationships, and have a smoother entry to school life. However, some parents and teachers have told us they’re worried about 4-year-olds starting school. Reasons for this include:

  • New Zealand’s earlier starting age than many other countries
  • the benefits of play for young children
  • young children’s readiness for school, and
  • the lack of evidence supporting an earlier school starting age.

We want your views on what cohort entry for children aged 5 and over should look like in the future. This will help the Government to decide how it makes the law change on cohort entry.

Options on starting new entrants

We want your views on how often schools that fully adopt cohort entry should be able to start their groups of new entrants. 

We have identified 2 options – once a term or twice a term. These options are outlined in more detail below. We looked at the impact of having more than 2 starting dates each term, and found that this would reduce the benefits of cohort entry for children and schools.

Both options could have an impact on some families and whānau as they would need to pay for a longer period of early childhood education for their child than they would under continuous entry or the existing cohort entry model. Their child would, however, still be able to get 20 Hours ECE until they start school. Eligible families and whānau would also be able to get childcare assistance provided by the Ministry of Social Development.

Both options could also have an impact on early childhood services due to children staying for longer and leaving in groups. This could lead to longer waiting times for children starting at early childhood services that are already full.

Option 1 — Allowing new entrants to start school in a group at the beginning of each term

Schools with cohort entry would be able to start their new entrants in a group at the beginning of each term. This would mean 4 starting dates each year.

Parents could start their child at the beginning of the term after their fifth birthday, or the beginning of a later term (but all children would need to start school by their sixth birthday).

This means some children may have to wait up to between 12 and 15 weeks after their fifth birthday before they can start school, depending on when in the year they turn 5. Those born in term 4 for example, may have to wait slightly longer to start school due to the summer holidays.

This option would result in long waiting times to start school for some children.

Option 2 — Allowing new entrants to start school in a group at the beginning of the term and at the mid-point of the term

Schools with cohort entry would be able to start their new entrants in a group at the beginning and at the mid-point of each term. This would result in eight starting dates each year, 2 per term.

Children who turn 5 in the first half of the term would start at the mid-point of the term. Children who turn 5 in the second half of the term would start at the beginning of the next term. Parents could still choose to start their child at school on a later cohort starting date, up until their sixth birthday.

This means some children may have to wait up to between 5 and 10 weeks after their fifth birthday to start school, depending on when in the year they turn 5. Again, those born in term 4, for example, may have to wait slightly longer to start school due to the summer holidays.

This option would result in shorter waiting times to start school than option 1.

Questions

  1. Do you prefer option 1 or option 2? Why?
  2. How do you think these 2 options will affect children, families, whānau, early childhood education services and schools? Have we missed anything?
  3. Are there are any other options you think that we should look at?
  4. If you're a school, how likely is it that your school will consult with your community on adopting a cohort entry policy for children aged 5 and over? If not, why not? 

Flexibility for cohort entry

We also want to know what you think about giving schools more flexibility in how they adopt cohort entry. The law currently has one option for all schools. However, we could make a law change so there are two options. This would allow schools to choose, after discussion with their community, which cohort entry option best suits the community’s needs.

Question

  1. Should the law let schools choose one option or between two options for cohort entry?

Impact of a law change on schools that have fully adopted cohort entry

If your school has fully adopted cohort entry for 2018, it can still start new entrants before their fifth birthday until the law is changed.

Once the law is changed, your school will need to consult with your community to decide whether to adopt the new model of cohort entry or return to continuous entry. Doing consultation will let staff, current and future parents, and local early childhood education services and kōhanga reo share their views on whether they want to adopt the new model.

We'll keep your school updated on any actions you need to take as Parliament makes changes to the law.

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