The ability of a child to cope independently in a new social environment is more important for school readiness than being able write, count, and read simple words.
Parents are more likely, however, than teachers to think that pre-academic skills are important to ensure a child’s successful transition to school.
A recent study from Britain's Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years found only 4% of teachers believed the definition of school readiness should include a good basic understanding of reading, writing and arithmetic, whereas 25% of parents thought it should.
Australian Primary Principals Association president Norm Hart said parents worried a lot more now and wanted to convince themselves they were making the right decision for their child.
Mr Hart said he thought it was healthy for parents to weigh up consciously whether a child was ready for school.
''We should worry more about readiness, particularly social and emotional readiness,'' he said. ''It's the most significant determinant of whether a child enjoys and is successful at school.''
Gemma Eastwood-Bell has no qualms about sending her daughter Zara to school this year, even though, at 4½, Zara will be the youngest in her class.
''Zara's always been a bright little spark, and her teacher always said she was more than ready academically,'' Ms Eastwood-Bell said. ''If we kept her back when all her friends had gone to school, I didn't know how that left-behind factor was going to affect her emotionally.''
Sarah Watson, whose son Will is also a June baby, decided to wait until he was 5½ to start school.
''You just don't want your child to feel incapable, because you're not going to be there to help them,'' Ms Watson said. ''You want to give your child the best possible start.'' The decision cost the family an extra $7000 in childcare fees, but Ms Watson thinks it was right for her son, who is a smaller child and a bit shy.
Read the full article by Cosima Marriner in the Sydney Morning Herald