Allowing schools to introduce cohort entry

Currently, most children start school on their fifth birthday or soon after. Some schools are encouraging parents to start their children at school as part of a cohort on set dates during the year.

Under the current Act, however, schools must allow any child who has turned five to start school on the day requested by their parents.

The Education (Update) Amendment Bill (the Bill) proposes to enable schools to implement a cohort entry policy whereby new entrants could only start school at the beginning of each term. The earliest that children would be able to start school is at the beginning of the term closest to their fifth birthday.

Before introducing a cohort entry policy, school boards of trustees would be required to consult with school staff, parents of current and prospective students of the school, and local early childhood education services.

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 schools with Year 1 students, children starting school and their parents and whānau, and early childhood education services.

What are the benefits of cohort entry?

Some education professionals consider that cohort entry enables them to support better transitions to school, simplify school and classroom planning, and minimise disruption for existing new entrant children.

When will children be able to enrol in a school with cohort entry?

Children will be able to start at a school with cohort entry at the beginning of the term closest to their fifth birthday, or the beginning of a later term. This means that some children will be able to start school up to eight weeks before they turn five, while other children will have to wait up to eight weeks after their fifth birthday before they can start school.

The precise cut-off dates for each term will be published in the Gazette and on the Ministry of Education’s website. Children turning five before the cut-off date for a term will be able to enrol in a school with cohort entry at the beginning of that term.

Examples

  • Hana turns five in week eight of term one. As her birthday is closest to the beginning of term two, if she was enrolling in a school with cohort entry she would need to wait until the beginning of term two to start school.
  • Tom turns five in week six of term four. As his birthday is closest to the beginning of term four, if he was enrolling in a school with cohort entry he could start school at the beginning of term four, or the beginning of a later term.

How will parents know which schools have cohort entry policies?

Schools will be required to publicise their cohort entry policy at least a term before implementing it. This could be done through their website, for example. Parents will also be able to find out whether a school has a cohort entry policy or not using the “Find a School” function on www.educationcounts.govt.nz (external link)

Will this change affect the compulsory age for schooling?

No. Parents will continue to have the option of not starting their child in school until their sixth birthday, irrespective of whether or not the school they enrol in has a cohort entry policy.

If a child is unable to enrol in school until after their fifth birthday, will they still be eligible for ECE subsidies?

Yes. Any Ministry of Education ECE subsidies, including 20 Hours Free, are currently available up until a child turns six or enrols in school. The Ministry of Social Development will be making changes to the childcare assistance regulations to ensure that children who are not able to start school until after their fifth birthday will continue to be eligible for the childcare subsidy.

If a child enrols in school before their fifth birthday, will they be eligible for the OSCAR subsidy?

Yes. The Ministry of Social Development will be making changes to the childcare assistance regulations to ensure that children starting school before their fifth birthday will be eligible to receive the OSCAR subsidy.  

Last reviewed: Has this been useful? Give us your feedback