With the summer fast-approaching, September will be here before you know it, which means that now could be a very good time to start thinking about schools. But, with many schools opening their doors for children as young as three, how do you know if your child is ready for ‘big school’? Fiona McKenzie of Gabbitas Educational Consultants answers your common questions…
When should I start thinking about my child’s education?
The earlier the better. Not only because of the diverse choice available in the UAE, but also because it can be competitive to get a place at the best nurseries and schools. So don’t leave it too late! This is an exciting opportunity for you to start thinking about the best educational path for your child, so whilst it can seem overwhelming, don’t forget to trust your instincts about what type of environment would be a good fit.
What age should my child start nursery?
Children can start at a nursery from a few weeks old and a nursery environment can be a great solution for a working parent plus an enriching early learning experience for your child. It makes sense to look for one close to your home or work to keep life simple but it is important to get a sense of whether the ethos is a good fit for your family.
Once your child reaches 3 years old it becomes a bit more complicated. It’s at this stage that you need to start thinking about which early years curriculum is most suitable and whether your child makes the move up to a more formal school setting or stays in the nursery environment.
What age should my child start school?
The UAE is pretty unique since many schools open their doors to children as young as three but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the environment is right for your child at that age. In many countries across the world a child wouldn’t start school until 5, 6 or even 7 so there is not necessarily a right or wrong age to start school. It very much comes down to personal choice, although there are some other factors to think about.
You might want to consider your child’s month of birth. For example, summer-born babies can be quite behind their peers in terms of development so another year within a more supportive nursery setting might be the right approach. This can also be relevant for other areas of development such as potty training.
Other children may benefit from a new environment within a school setting, they may have outgrown their surroundings and be ready for a new challenge. Therefore, for them, moving to big school might be a better fit at any earlier stage.
But, it is important to mention that school will naturally have a more ‘formal’ environment where children will need to wear a uniform and the timetable will not be as flexible as a nursery setting, this more pressurized environment is not suited to all children at 3 years old.
So, how do I know what is the right decision?
Only you can make that choice and you will know which is the right setting for your child. There is nothing to suggest they would be taught anything more at school than they would be at nursery. Whether in FS1 or Pre KG or nursery, there will be huge emphasis on learning through play. Ultimately there should be no academic competitiveness when it comes to starting school and your child should be encouraged to develop at their own pace.
It is important that you do your research and you will need to decide which curriculum you would like your choice to follow. Do also think about location, budget and ease of transition back to your home country. All of these are important factors to think about at this stage!
Gabbitas works closely with families to work through all of these issues and help the family identify what they are looking for and then to advise which nurseries and schools can help to meet those needs.