Mark McGowan: Stop forcing vulnerable kids to start schooling before they are ready

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I’m a mum, grandmother, parenting author and former teacher and counsellor, among other things. For years, at an increasing rate each year, I’ve been receiving heartbreaking messages from concerned WA parents who feel their child could benefit from another year in kindergarten but they have not had the choice. For years, I’ve been campaigning to fix the most inflexible education system in the country on school starting age.

Please sign my petition calling on WA Premier Mark McGowan to step in and ensure that existing legislation that gives parents the flexibility to send their kids to school when they are ready. Despite there being a clear process to choose this flexibility, principals are still vetoing requests made by parents and health professionals.

Right now, the system is failing children with developmental vulnerabilities and putting them at long-term risk. Our more sensitive kids just need a little longer to develop the social and emotional competence needed to transition into a formalised learning environment.

In NSW you can just email or call the school and say, “we need more time,” and the schools trust the parents. In WA, on the other hand, I’ve had parents tell me that their request to review the decisions made by principals is ignored or refused despite professional recommendations! 

Many parents have been forced to move their children from local government schools to independent schools at huge costs to allow the extra time. Many allied health professionals agree with me. Kids with physical, emotional, cognitive or social vulnerabilities just need more time to develop the maturity needed to cope with five days of rigorous schooling a week.

This is why I’m calling on Mark McGowan to urgently implement the process for parents to choose school age flexibility for their sons and daughters, in time for the 2021 school year. We also need clarity around the appeal process so parents are empowered to voice their concerns.