Changes to school entry rules that allowed some 4-year-olds to start school will be reversed by the new Government.

The current system allows children to start on their 5th birthday, and requires consistent attendance only from the age of 6.

The National Government in May made wide-ranging changes to education law, including allowing schools to take up cohort entry.

Under cohort entry, students start school from the beginning of term closest to their 5th birthday. The earliest children could start is up to eight weeks before they turn 5.


Labour, NZ First, the Greens and education unions all raised concerns about the fact that at some schools 4-year-olds would be able to enrol.

Now, Education Minister Chris Hipkins has confirmed he will progress legislation that will restrict cohort entry to the age of 5 and above. Schools will still be given the option to choose cohort entry or the current approach of starting children on their 5th birthday.

"I've asked the ministry to draft an amendment to the law that will limit cohort entry to children over 5-years-old. The overwhelming feedback during the select committee process was that children shouldn't start school before they had turned 5," Hipkins said.

"That amendment will be progressed next year as part of a wider tidy up of the Education Act. In the meantime, the law as it stands continues to apply."

National's education spokeswoman Nikki Kaye said restricting cohort entry to children aged 5 and over was ideological and a "nanny state" approach.

"The Education Minister believes he knows better than parents and will change the law so that children cannot start school before the age of 5.

"The law change will mean that some children will have to wait longer than their fifth birthday to start at the school that their parents have chosen for them if that school has adopted cohort entry."