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Let kids be kids: Little anti-age change

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 9/05/2017

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Four-year-olds should be making tea with muddy water rather than starting school early, Labour leader Andrew Little believes.

He doesn't back education reform legislation that's set to be read for a final time in Parliament this week and would allow children as young as four years and 10 months to start school as part of a group - known as cohort entry.

But new Education Minister Nikki Kaye believes New Zealand has been an outlier in not having cohort entry for too long and says in the end it would still be a parent's choice when their child starts school.

Currently children are allowed to start school on their fifth birthday but are not required to attend consistently until they turn six.

Cohort means schools could adopt a system that would allow children to start school on set dates with a group of their peers, up to two months earlier than the current system allows.

"I don't think this is going to be a dramatic shift at all, I think it's going to be totally up to schools and parents what they do," Ms Kaye said.

Up to 80 per cent of parent and 76 per cent of teachers asked during consultation about cohort entry support the idea, she said.

"The ability to form longer-term relationships by coming in in a cohort is very positive, but also that lack of disruption in the classroom as well was part of what the research showed was beneficial," she said.

But Mr Little said four years and 10 months was too young.

"At the age of four you should be running around in a sandpit and the garden making cups of tea and doing whatever with muddy water," he said.

"Kids should be doing that stuff, exploring their creative and fun side."

He said the two months between four years and 10 months and five was "almost a lifetime" for children that age.

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