Too young for Grade 1?

For­mer Model C schools crit­i­cised for re­fus­ing to ac­cept six-year-olds

Weekend Witness - - News - SHARIKA REGCHAND

FOR­MER Model C schools are be­ing crit­i­cised for not want­ing to ac­cept chil­dren into Grade 1 when they are five years old, turn­ing six by June 30 in the year of their ad­mis­sion.

An irate par­ent, who did not wish to be named for fear of com­pro­mis­ing her job, has lam­basted a for­mer Model C school for re­fus­ing to ac­cept her child. She said that speak­ing as a pri­mary school teacher at a pub­lic school, the sixyear-olds in Grade 1 are able to man­age and cope.

She added that the for­mer Model C schools were “mis­lead­ing” par­ents that their chil­dren had to be turn­ing seven in Grade 1 when the South African Schools Act said other­wise.

The woman said she knew her child’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties and that she is ready for pri­mary school.

A teacher with more than 30 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence in pub­lic and pri­vate schools, who now runs her own tu­tor­ing cen­tre, ex­plained the think­ing by for­mer Model C schools. The teacher, who also asked not be named, said that these schools have found from ex­pe­ri­ence that chil­dren aged seven in Grade 1 were more school-ready.

Since the schools pre­fer to ac­cept chil­dren at an older age, the younger chil­dren who are ac­cepted seem to suf­fer a dis­ad­van­tage, es­pe­cially down the line.

“From a sports point of view, once the chil­dren are in se­nior pri­mary school, sports get played ac­cord­ing to age groups … what hap­pens is that the much younger child ends up not play­ing sport with their friends from class. This af­fects them so­cially and emo­tion­ally,” she said.

The teacher added that the schools were not try­ing to be dif­fi­cult.

“They can al­ready see that there will be dif­fi­cul­ties for the child … it’s a big prob­lem,” she said.

From ex­pe­ri­ence, the teacher finds that older chil­dren are more ad­vanced and work at a faster pace. They are more in­de­pen­dent. She has also no­ticed that the younger chil­dren re­quire more as­sis­tance. They may need speech or oc­cu­pa­tional ther­apy, ex­tra sup­port classes and many end up hav­ing to re­peat a year. “A school will al­ways look at the best in­ter­est of the child,” she said.

The teacher said par­ents de­cide to send their chil­dren to cer­tain Model C schools for a rea­son. Per­haps it is be­cause of the school’s rep­u­ta­tion and the ex­pe­ri­enced teach­ers.

“Why are these schools good? It is for these rea­sons you want your child to go to that school. You must trust what the school is say­ing be­cause they know best,” she ad­vised.

But she added that for­mer Model C schools can’t deny a child turn­ing six in Grade 1 ad­mis­sion, be­cause in court they would lose.

Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment spokesper­son Muzi Mahlambi con­firmed that Grade 1s must be five, turn­ing six, be­fore June 30 that year.

“No school is al­lowed to come up with pol­icy that is in con­trast with the depart­ment pol­icy when it comes to ad­mis­sions. Par­ents ex­pe­ri­enc­ing any such prob­lems must con­sult the depart­ment for as­sis­tance,” he said.

Re­gard­ing school readi­ness, he said the depart­ment has a man­date to en­sure that by 2020 all chil­dren must have ac­cess to Grade R be­fore go­ing to school. He said that while some schools are be­ing pro­vided with Grade R pro­grammes, there are bud­get con­straints. •­sharik [email protected]­

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