Jodi - posted on 07/01/2012 ( 45 moms have responded )
THE age of children seeking the help of tutors is getting younger and younger, with parents now forking out thousands of dollars to have preschooolers privately coached for school entrance assessments.
As part of dozens of school readiness programs across Sydney, children as young as three are learning how to count, sound letters and write their name to prepare for big school.
Parents hope it will give their child an edge in school entry interviews at private and Catholic schools and in the best start kindergarten assessment, which evaluates their skills when they start school.
Begin Bright early learning centre director Tina Tower said more than 600 children were enrolled in school readiness programs across five centres around Sydney.
Children attend weekly one-hour classes at a cost of $26 from age three.
"They learn all the foundations and develop a really good attitude to learning so when they start school they don't encounter any problems," Ms Tower said.
"We make sure that they can hold their pencil properly, they can write their name, know their alphabet and know their letter sounds."
She said the best start kindergarten assessment was difficult and most children would not be able to answer more than two questions if they were not prepared.
"That's a horrible introduction to school," she said.
Ms Tower said parents enrol young children after noticing how much an older sibling struggles at school. The program is about stimulating children's minds rather than pushy parents, she said.
Sydney Catholic Education office media spokesman Mark Rix said enrolments at systemic Catholic primary schools were made in accordance to set criteria, with priority given to baptised Catholic children of regularly worshipping families.
This is followed by children from orthodox churches, then other Christian churches, and lastly children from other faith traditions or non-religious backgrounds.
Mr Rix said the interview was to meet the family, not test the child's academic qualities.
"It's just about making sure the teachers know what they are ready for, so they have got strategies in place to help the child from day one," Mr Rix said. "It's not a determinant of enrolment."
Letting kids develop on their own
PROSPECTIVE kindergarten students at St Joseph's Primary School in Como, in Sydney's south, are asked to count, hold a pen and say their name during pre-enrolment interviews.
But the assessments are held to assess a student's development rather than determine whether they will be accepted, principal Anna Cindric says.
All families are interviewed regardless of the year of enrolment.
In a pre-kindergarten child, the principal looks for developmental signs such as speech, pencil grip and reading abilities.
"You're trying to get a picture of the child as a person and as a learner," Ms Cindric said, adding that she wanted to see whether a child needed learning intervention before starting school, rather than trying to select a smart student.
The school is a strong academic performer but Ms Cindric said the assessment was not used as a basis to knock children back and only to assess their development and what their needs would be if they were eventually enrolled in the school.
How young is too young for a tutor? Are parents overly competitive and putting too much pressure on their children? What are your thoughts?