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Push to overhaul laws on start time for schoo -

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Push to overhaul laws on start time for school

The World Today - Tuesday, 26 August , 2008 12:40:00

Reporter: Felicity Ogilvie

ELEANOR HALL: Parents in Tasmania are lobbying the state government to give them more say on when
their children start school. Under state law children have to start school by the time they turn
six. But Tasmania and South Australia are the only places in Australia where parents don't have
some flexibility in holding their children back from school.

And a psychologist who's made a living telling parents that boys develop later than girls says the
law should be changed. In Hobart Felicity Ogilvie reports.

FELICITY OGILVIE: Tasmanian Psychologist, Steve Biddulph, travels the world advising parents to
hold their sons back from starting school. He gives that advice because he believes boys develop
slower than girls. But in his home state of Tasmania children have to start school by the time they
turn six.

STEVE BIDDULPH: I hadn't been doing many lecture tours in Tasmania and I was speaking on the
north-west coast and some parents came up after the lecture and said did you know your advice is
against the law?

And they in fact were parents of little boys who were having to start school in this coming year
and they were really upset about that because they were very young for their cohort and not really

FELICITY OGILVIE: Mr Biddulph says Tasmania and South Australia are the only states that don't give
parents the option of delaying their child's first day of school. In the rest of the country
there's a window of six months to a year before a child has to go to school.

STEVE BIDDULPH: Really the calendar is a very poor guide to school readiness in children generally.
Some children are ready and some are not, but on the whole boys are about six months and sometimes
even 12 months less developed in their fine motor skills which is writing and holding a pencil and
doing neat work. So they're really not ready for what school does and have a lot of problems.

And teachers complain all the time about the little girls are doing what they're meant to do and
paying attention and the little boys are sticking their pen in their navel and crawling around on
the floor.

FELICITY OGILVIE: So is this just boys? Or is it girls as well that might need to wait to go to

STEVE BIDDULPH: It would involve a percentage of boys and a smaller percentage of girls as well. So
we think that basically every child should be looked as an individual case.

FELICITY OGILVIE: His opinion is shared by The President of the Tasmanian State Schools Parents and
Friends Association Jenny Branch.

JENNY BRANCH: If you look at the Finish model which we've all been talking about lately, they're
all starting school later. You know I think there's all sorts of arguments about how we're going to
look at schooling for our children for the future and maybe we just have to look at some different
ways of doing things to suit the individual child rather than putting them all in one box.

FELICITY OGILVIE: One Tasmanian parent who's got special permission for her children to start
school later is Jane Wells. Ms Wells and her husband have twins, a boy and a girl.

JANE WELLS: It's difficult with twin because if they don't go together, then there may be a stigma
attached to that later on.

FELICITY OGILVIE: Do you see any difference at all between your daughter and your son in terms of
how ready for school your children are?

JANE WELLS: Absolutely, I think the social development, that ability to interact with peers and be
confident socially seems to come slower to boys or to our son in particular.

FELICITY OGILVIE: So you can see a difference, what do you think will be the benefit for your son
in starting when he's a little bit older?

JANE WELLS: I think the most important thing for children to have when they begin their school
journey is confidence. And I don't believe our son would have had that confidence.

FELICITY OGILVIE: There's no word yet from the Tasmanian Government about how it will respond to
the campaign.

ELEANOR HALL: Felicity Ogilvie reporting.