I’ve written about Alberta’s admissions flexibility before, but this week I noticed something else different between England and Canada – the language parents and teachers use to describe when children start school.
In England, starting school early at age 4 is considered ‘normal‘ while starting school at CSAge is described as ‘delayed‘ or ‘deferred‘ entry.
In Canada (where parents of the youngest children in any birth year have complete choice between two different academic years in which to enrol their child), starting school at age 4 instead of age 5 is described as ‘early entry‘, while starting school at CSAge is considered ‘normal‘.
Interestingly, having spoken (anecdotally) to some other English parents living in Canada, and who told me they ‘don’t understand why so many parents choose to hold their children back‘, it just reinforces the very often cultural difference in how flexible admissions is perceived in England.
During the recent Summer Born Campaign media coverage in February and March, it was very noticeable how the majority of debate took place in the context of whether parents should ‘delay‘ their child’s entry to school – and with very little recognition that this isn’t technically the case.
There is ‘early entry‘ to school at age 4 or there is CSAge, and the latter is the term following a child’s 5th birthday.
Something so simply understood and allowed in Canada, and yet an educational right that parents in England are still being forced to fight for in the 21st Century.
Alberta goes One Step Further
As included in the SBC written submission for the Education Committee’s March 4, 2015 one-off evidence check, Alberta is currently seeking to increase the age of ‘early entry‘ for its youngest children:
In January 2011, Education Secretary Michael Gove cited Alberta in Canada as being among the “world leaders” in education, and in June 2011 and September 2010 speeches, he said, “In Canada, and specifically in Alberta, a diverse range of autonomous schools offer professionals freedom and parents’ choice. As a result, Alberta now has the best performing state schools of any English-speaking region.”
But Mr. Gove did not mention that Alberta’s flexible admissions process (with age of entry
entirely at the discretion of parents) better reflects England’s primary legislation than the
DfE’s recent Codes, and the DfE did not include any Canadian evidence in its submission.
In Alberta, the absolute youngest a child can enter Kindergarten is 4.5years (and Kindergarten is optional), but because the cut-off dates vary between school authorities (Sep.31, Dec.31, Mar.1), the ‘Alberta Education’ Ministry is currently considering a policy change that would standardise all authorities and mean 4.75 years (Dec.31 cut-off) is the youngest age for Kindergarten entry. The Ministry told us, this “ensures all children are a few months older than they otherwise could have been at school entrance.”
Furthermore: “Education funding allows for some flexibility for children to access two years of Kindergarten prior to grade one if the parents and the school are in agreement that this is in the best educational and developmental interest of the child. This is usually for children with special education needs, developmental delays or children who are younger in the cohort.”
Unsurprisingly, Alberta’s policy does not include any children being forced to miss a year of school, least of all the youngest in cohort or those who start school at the latest age possible (age 5 in Kindergarten or age 6 in Grade 1).