Too young for Grade 1?
Former Model C schools criticised for refusing to accept six-year-olds
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]ness.co.za