Department of Education Learners first, connected and inspired

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1 Department of Education Learners first, connected and inspired Frequently Asked Questions about Early Entry to Kindergarten (Cross Sectoral Information for Parents)

2 Frequently Asked Questions about Early Entry to Kindergarten Cross Sectoral Information for parents Note: This information applies to all Government, Catholic and Independent schools in Tasmania. Question 1: What is early entry to kindergarten? Answer: Under section 46 of the Education Act 1994, children in all Tasmanian schools begin kindergarten if they are four years old on or before 1 January in the year of enrolment. This age is appropriate for the majority of children in terms of their intellectual, physical, social and emotional capacity to engage with a structured learning environment. There is a small percentage of children who are gifted i.e. their development is significantly more advanced than other children of the same age (see more at question 3) and they can benefit from starting kindergarten earlier than usual. Where a gifted child is admitted to kindergarten at an earlier age than usual, it is referred to as early entry to kindergarten. Question 2: Is early entry to kindergarten suitable for children who just miss the birth date cut off and seem to be ready for school? Answer: No. While all children have relative strengths and weaknesses, the demands of formal education are such that care is needed to avoid putting young children under unnecessary pressure by beginning school too early. Simply having their fourth birthday soon after the January 1 st cut-off date, or before school resumes, is not a good reason to apply for early entry to kindergarten. For early entry to be successful, the child s development needs to be advanced in all areas because they will need to be able to cope with all areas of the curriculum at a younger age than usual and relate to older peers for all of their school career. This advanced development is indicated through a cognitive assessment performed by a registered psychologist as well as through information provided by the child s parents and carers. Early entry to school is a special provision made for children whose results from the psychologist s assessment fall within the top two percent of the population. Research shows that such advanced cognitive development is often (but not always) accompanied by more advanced social and emotional development. Evidence of these aspects of a child s development is collected from their parents and carers through the early entry application form. Children who are born in January and February and who don t have this advanced development should begin kindergarten at the usual age. They will be one of the older children in their peer group at school and that is likely to set them up for success in their school career. They are most likely to have the maturity to thrive in all domains; intellectual, social and emotional. This will be important in future years, especially in developing the skills and independence needed for effective learning in later school years, and the resilience needed at key transition points such as moving from primary to high school, to senior secondary college and through to further study. of Education s website to ensure this version is the most recent. P a g e 2

3 Question 3: What exactly does it mean to be gifted? Answer: The formal definition of giftedness used by the Department of Education is: Students who are gifted have the capacity for advanced development relative to their age peers in at least one ability domain (intellectual, physical, creative or social), to a degree that places them at least among the top 10% of their age peers. Within this group of 10% of children there is a range of levels of giftedness: from mildly gifted (1 in 10 children) through to extremely gifted (less than 1 in 100,000 children). Children who are gifted can be well ahead of others of the same age in their spoken language development and/or their reading and writing and/or their development of mathematical skills and concepts. They can also be exceptionally creative, may have very well developed physical skills for their age and/or be socially more mature than their same aged peers. Gifted children can also have very intense emotional responses to the world around them. It is important to understand that being well ahead in one of these areas does not automatically mean that the child will be advanced in all areas. Some children have a disability at the same time as being gifted in another aspect of their development. Each child has a unique profile of strengths and needs that must be met by the school system. A registered psychologist can assess a young child s intellectual capacity with tests that measure their understanding of language and their ability to think mathematically and solve problems, relative to their age-group peers. The assessment provides an objective measure of the child s intellectual functioning, compared with same-aged Australian children, and gives a good indication of the child s potential for success at school. Early entry to kindergarten is only suitable for those children at the highest levels of intellectual functioning (i.e. those who score in the top two percent). Children who are mildly gifted should begin school at the usual age. Question 4: Are all gifted children the same? Answer: Gifted children show just as much variation in their profile of developmental strengths and needs as other children. Some children are gifted intellectually while being on a par socially and emotionally with their same aged peers, while others relate better to older peers. Some children are gifted across more than one domain, while others have a particular strength in one area (e.g. logical and mathematical reasoning), while being average in other areas. Some children have a higher level of intellectual giftedness than others and may require more significant interventions to meet their learning needs. Children can be gifted in some areas while at the same time having a communication difficulty (such as an Autism Spectrum Disorder), or a physical disability (such as hearing impairment). The important thing to understand is that each gifted child is unique and will have individual strengths and needs. Families and educators must take into account the full picture of the child when considering the best age for them to begin formal education. of Education s website to ensure this version is the most recent. P a g e 3

4 Question 5: How do I know if my pre-school child might be gifted? Answer: Parents are often the first to notice that their child may be developing differently to other children of a similar age. A good resource to support parents identifying possible giftedness in their child is the Early School Entry for Gifted Students Application Form, available on the Department of Education web site. The form contains two checklists parents can use to make some structured observations about their child. The first checklist describes fifteen characteristics of gifted young children. Parents are invited to share examples of their child s development and behaviour that relate to each characteristic. Some questions require comparison with other children, so if parents experience with young children is limited, it can be helpful to consult with people who have some expertise or experience in early childhood development e.g. an early learning educator, child carer or family/friends with young children of their own. The observations on the second checklist refer to how the child functions in a group situation. This checklist should be completed in consultation with an early learning educator or child carer who knows the child in a group context. Parents are invited to use the checklists to reflect on their child s development and the behaviours they currently show. If the child displays the characteristics to a strong degree, parents may consider having them formally assessed for intellectual giftedness by a psychologist. A good overview of characteristics that may indicate giftedness in pre-school children is also available from The Tasmanian Association for the Gifted Inc. (TAG) web site at using the link Is My Child Gifted? If parents think their child may be gifted it can be helpful to make contact with the local TAG group for further information, resources and support. Question 6: Is early entry to kindergarten suitable for all gifted children? Answer: A child who enters kindergarten early will probably be the youngest in their class throughout their school career. This will mean that higher academic demands are made of them across all areas of learning and they will need to relate to an older peer group. Research shows that for some gifted children, this is exactly the situation they need to thrive and so early entry is a very successful placement strategy for them. It is important that the early entry student s progress is tracked and reviewed as they move through their schooling so that further accommodations can be made if needed. If an early entry to kindergarten placement is not appropriate for the needs of a particular gifted student, going ahead with it can have unintended negative consequences. If they feel pressure to perform, it can cause anxiety and stress for the child who may feel they are letting family or teachers down by not living up to expectations. It is possible they may have to repeat a year later on at school if early entry to kindergarten turns out to be inappropriate for their needs. Thus, while it is important to consider early entry as a possible strategy, it is not a panacea for all gifted children and each child needs to be considered individually. of Education s website to ensure this version is the most recent. P a g e 4

5 Question 7: Should I apply for early entry to kindergarten for my child? Answer: If, after reading the information outlined in the previous questions parents feel their child does not show indications of giftedness, they should enter kindergarten at the usual age and not apply for early entry to kindergarten. If parents think their child may be intellectually gifted, they should also consider their child s physical, social and emotional capacity to begin formal schooling. The Department of Education web site gives information about the sorts of activities children undertake at kindergarten and ways parents can help them to prepare for it. This can help parents decide whether or not their child is ready for kindergarten. If parents are unsure, or have specific questions, talk with a professional (such as an early childhood educator, school psychologist or child carer) or make an appointment with the school principal, senior staff or kindergarten teacher to discuss their concerns. If parents think their child may be intellectually gifted and they are confident their social and emotional development is generally advanced so their child will cope with school, then they can apply for early entry using the process outlined below. Question 8: What is the process for early entry to kindergarten? Answer: A child may be considered for entry to kindergarten before the usual age of 4 years on January 1 st in the year of enrolment, provided they meet two criteria: 1. be assessed in the top two percent of the population for cognitive function, through an assessment by a registered psychologist, preferably using the Wechsler Preschool & Primary Scale of Intelligence Fourth Edition Australian Standardised Edition (WPPSI-IV Australian) and 2. be aged at least 3 years and 6 months as at 1 January of the year in which entry to kindergarten is requested If parents are considering applying for early entry to kindergarten for their child, they should contact the principal of the school at which they will be enrolling their child before the last Friday in August of the year before they want their child to start. 1. The principal will check the age requirement and provide parents with the information and documentation needed to apply for early entry to kindergarten. If parents decide to proceed, the principal will advise about a formal assessment for the child with a registered psychologist. 2. Parents need to complete the Early School Entry for Gifted Students Application Form. Please return the completed form to the school principal as soon as possible; by the end of August (mid-term 3). of Education s website to ensure this version is the most recent. P a g e 5

6 3. The results of the psychologist s assessment, along with the information provided by parents in the application form, is submitted to the Early Entry to School Cross Sectoral Placement Committee*, which meets in October each year. 4. The committee makes the final decision and parents are advised in writing of the decision as soon as possible after the meeting. 5. Once an application has been approved, formal enrolment processes with the nominated school can be initiated. *Further details about the process and the Early Entry to School Cross Sectoral Placement Committee are available in the document entitled Early Entry to Kindergarten for Children who are Gifted (Cross Sectoral Guidelines). Question 9: What options (other than early entry to kindergarten) are available for gifted children? Answer: Early entry to kindergarten is just one option, among a range of strategies that are available to schools and parents for meeting the needs of gifted children. The Department of Education makes a range of provisions to meet the needs of gifted students. These include supporting differentiated classroom practice for all teachers to enable extension of gifted and highly able students, providing a range of specific extended learning opportunities and providing procedures to support acceleration where it is required to meet a student s needs. Further details are available on the Department of Education web site. Parents might also consider providing opportunities for their child to participate in communitybased activities and/or providing activities at home that value and build on their strengths. This can allow them to explore their interests and help them to develop in areas of need. Question 10: How can I best support my gifted child at school? Answer: The education of your child is an important ongoing partnership between you, the school and your child. Every child has a unique profile of learning strengths and needs and it is important to work closely with the school to provide an appropriately challenging and personalised program for them. One of the most positive things parents can contribute to their child s education is keeping communication with the school happening in an open, supportive and ongoing way. of Education s website to ensure this version is the most recent. P a g e 6

7 Authorised by: Liz Banks Position of authorising person: Deputy Secretary Early Years and Schools Date authorised: July 2015 Developed by: Curriculum Services Date of last review: 2014 Date for next review: 2016 This document replace: N/A Associated Documents and Materials The following documents are available from (Search for the Doc ID) School Enrolment Procedures (Doc ID: TASED ) Early Entry to Kindergarten for Children who are Gifted (Cross Sectoral Guidelines) (Doc ID TASED ) Early School Entry for Gifted Students Application Form (Doc ID: TASED ) Acceleration of Gifted Students Procedures (Doc ID: TASED ) Starting Kindergarten (Doc ID: TASED ) of Education s website to ensure this version is the most recent. P a g e 7

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