Where you live may dictate the age in which your child is eligible to enter kindergarten. There are different age cut-offs that often vary by state or country, seeing children enter the elementary school system anywhere between the ages of 4 and 5, typically. Redshirting, the practice of postponing a child's enrollment in kindergarten despite their age eligibility is a common practice that seems may be beneficial to children in the long run.
A recent Australian study published in the academic journal Early Childhood Research Quarterly found that children who were older when they began school was more likely to be ready for school and more successful. Redshirting is not a new trend, in fact, many books have been written about this exact topic, like Malcolm Gladwell's Outlier, which posits that children who are older in school will have an advantage both academically and physically. Many parents opt to delay enrolling their children in school despite them being of age because some times they feel they need more time to mature, some may have a late birthday which the parents feel could be detrimental to their development, while sometimes they simply feel they aren't ready.
Researchers in the Australian study found that 1 in 4 families in New South Wales opted to delay sending their children to school despite being age eligible, but explained that decision was often impacted by socio-economic factors.
“Boys, younger children, and children from relatively advantaged families and neighborhoods – particularly in Sydney – were more likely to delay,” study director Dr. Kathleen Falster, of UNSW and the Australian National University, explained. She went on to state why this may and why it may not be an option for every family.
“This might be because parents and teachers believe that boys and younger children are often less school-ready – but delaying school entry can come at an additional cost for families, especially if the alternative is expensive childcare.”
The study showed there was a clear advantage to children starting school when they are older.
“When we compared their developmental data there was a clear trend: outcomes improved with each additional month of age,” study lead Dr. Mark Hanly revealed. “Month-on-month these differences are quite small, there’s not a big gap between August-born children and September-born children, for example. However, accumulated over a full year, these differences add up, and unsurprisingly there is quite a large development gap between 4½ year-olds and 6 year-olds.”
“What the data really show us is that, on average, children who start school in the year they turn six are more likely to have developed the skills and competencies needed to thrive in a formal learning environment, compared with their younger peers who start school in the year they turn five,” Dr. Hanly added.
The study makes no formal recommendation to raising the age of enrollment for kindergarten-aged children, acknowledging that for many families that could add the extra pressure of financial obligations that come with another year of child care. However, if you're contemplating redshirting your own child, there are definitely pros, as listed in this study, and cons to the process.