Opinion: ECC agrees with changes to cohort entry intake age

27 November 2017

Cohort entry to New Zealand primary schools is set to undergo some changes in thinking and many, including the Early Childhood Council, welcome removing the ability for schools to enable 4-year olds entry under this policy.

We recently wrote about how cohort entry might impact early childhood education (ECE), and discussed some of the risks around the policy.

Cohort entry was a National government policy enabling New Zealand primary schools to adopt a system of managing new entrant intakes by choosing a fixed start date at the start of each term. This also enabled intakes of children under the age of five, which was a departure from previous education practice.

These cohort entry provisions came into force on 3 July this year and schools were required to consult with their local communities as part of implementing the cohort policy.

However, under the new government changes to education policy have seen signalled and the Minister of Education announced changes to the cohort entry policy on 22 November 2017. He signalled in 2018 the Education (Update) Amendment Act 2017 will be amended to limit cohort entry to children over 5-years of age.

The Early Childhood Council welcomes the changes to the cohort entry policy.

We are aware of a number of ECE services and parents who were anxious about the reduction in the age limit for school entry. While this remained parents’ choice, it was clear some parents would feel pressured to move their child into a school environment earlier than was desirable under cohort entry.

Research also shows that school readiness is not simply a factor of the age of the child. Some children are not magically ready for school at 5 or 6 years old.

Consultation with early childhood education providers about cohort entry would likely be funnelled through a Community of Learning | Kāhui Ako. We’d encourage our members to participate or ask to participate in their local Community of Learning to ensure you get to have a say on any consultation here.

The Ministry of Education states on its website that: prior to any amendment, the Minister has said schools that have agreed on, or are considering, or are consulting on, the introduction of a cohort entry policy, from Term 1, 2018, can continue to do so until the Act is amended.

We are waiting to hear what further changes there might be to education policy. Meantime the advice to ECE is keep doing what you are doing.

The Ministry of Education dedicated web page has updates and latest thinking on education policy changes as they happen under this new government and we are keeping an eye on that, and further announcements from the Minister. To read our previous thoughts and comments on cohort entry, see our earlier opinion piece: Cohort entry in schools: what does this mean for ECE?

Peter Reynolds

Early Childhood Council Chief Executive Officer