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School (im)maturity.

Every preschooler will eventually become a student, and this period is a significant stage in their life, not only for them but also for their parents. The decision about whether to enter school or postpone compulsory school attendance for one year depends on several factors. In this context, it is necessary to clarify several concepts first.

  • School readiness from a psychological perspective, takes into account the biological basis and the process of maturation. In biological terms, it refers to a certain level of maturity of the central nervous system, which is a prerequisite for the types of learning required in school. School readiness is determined through a complex set of test methods in educational and psychological counseling centers. Generally, it means that the child has matured for the school requirements in the biological, social, and psychological aspects.

  • School readiness from a pedagogical point of view, takes into account the learning process. However, both concepts (psychological and pedagogical) are closely related and intertwined. School readiness can be characterized by several components, including internal factors such as the maturity of the central nervous system and the development of cognitive processes, as well as external factors such as the influence of the environment and upbringing, as a child's development always occurs in interaction with the environment in which they grow up.

  • School immaturity has several aspects: physical immaturity (inadequate growth, poor health, increased illness), psychological immaturity (slower maturation of the central nervous system, which manifests in lower levels of perception, poor expression skills, including speech disorders, delayed development of graphomotor skills, and poor concentration), and social immaturity (lack of social experience in children who did not attend preschool, excessive fixation on parents).

  • In the Czech Republic, compulsory schooling begins at the beginning of the school year following the day the child turns six years old, unless a deferment is granted. Compulsory schooling lasts for nine school years, but no later than the end of the school year in which the student turns seventeen. This also includes any years in which the student may have repeated a grade. In other words, by attending school for nine years regardless of academic performance, the student fulfills compulsory schooling and can complete their education.

  • Early enrollment in compulsory schooling is possible in the Czech Republic for children who turn six years old between September and the end of June of the relevant school year, provided they are reasonably physically and mentally mature and their legal representatives (parents) requests it. The child's maturity is assessed by teachers during enrollment, kindergarten teachers, psychologists in counseling centers, and pediatricians in clinics.

  • In the Czech Republic, a request for a deferral of compulsory schooling must be submitted in writing by the child's legal representatives (parents) by May 31 of the calendar year in which the child is to begin compulsory schooling. If the request is supported by a recommendation from the appropriate school counseling facility and a medical or clinical psychologist, the school principal may defer compulsory schooling for one year. If a student in the first year of compulsory school attendance shows insufficient physical or mental maturity to fulfill compulsory school attendance, the school principal may, with the consent of the student's legal representative, postpone the start of compulsory school attendance to the following school year during the first semester of the school year.

So school readiness means that a child has matured in terms of their biological, social, and psychological development to meet the demands of school. The child is capable of being separated from their family without suffering. They are able to engage with their peers in school, meet basic school requirements, such as focusing on work during class, not speaking when the teacher or another student is speaking, delaying immediate needs such as eating, drinking, or using the restroom, and adapting to the demands of a foreign authority. An important prerequisite for school attendance is the natural curiosity of the child. The conditions for school readiness are therefore:

  • Biological: sufficient growth and physical fitness (motor skills) of the child and their health status

  • Social: the ability to separate from the family, communicate with peers without difficulty, and respect the authority of the teacher

  • Psychological: motivation to gain new knowledge and discover new environments

  • Cognitive maturity: memory capacity, language skills, and the ability to store basic information in certain contexts.

Test of School Readiness for Parents of Preschool Children (Kucharska, Švancarová, 2004)

  1. The child is physically mature enough (measuring more than 115 cm and weighing more than 20 kg).

  2. It is agile and dexterous.

  3. It can handle a pencil, draw basic geometric shapes, and express simple concepts through drawing.

  4. It pronounces all sounds correctly and articulates even more challenging words (such as Thursday, cricket, marmalade...).

  5. It can express its thoughts verbally without any distortions, dysgrammatisms, or neologisms.

  6. It can recognize the initial and final sounds in a word.

  7. It can complete a puzzle, solve a maze, or find details in a picture.

  8. It can handle a number sequence up to 10, compare small amounts of objects (more/less), express the amount using specific objects, and occasionally do simple addition and subtraction.

  9. It is spatially aware and uses terms to describe position (up, down...), identifies the first and last element (and possibly others) in a sequence.

  10. It can focus on a task and listen.

  11. It does not need to nap after lunch, and getting up in the morning is not a significant problem.

  12. It is not afraid of strangers, can ask for a toy or help, and has no problems participating in group activities with peers.

  13. It can participate in games with rules.

  14. It is not overly tearful, and mood swings between joy and sorrow do not alternate quickly.

If the child does not meet more than 5-7 of these assumptions, it is advisable to initiate an examination at a pedagogical-psychological counseling center.

Zdroj: Kucharská, A, Švancarová, D. Bezstarostné roky? Praha: Scientia 2004 Every school has slightly different ways and procedures for enrollment, but they all look at several areas. Let's take a closer look at each area.

Physical development and motor skills

Before entering primary school, children on average reach a height of 120 cm and a weight of about 20 kg. A child who is adequately physically developed has already gone through changes in body structure and is physically fitter, which is a prerequisite for better coping with initial school demands. It is usually evident at first glance when a child is significantly smaller than their peers. Often, this circumstance plays a role for parents when deciding to postpone their child's school attendance.

Physical fitness also relates to coordination of movements. Children's physical fitness plays a role not only in social contacts, where the child easily participates in joint activities, but also contributes to their emotional development. A physically developed child is more confident, can better overcome obstacles, and is more resilient to stress. If a child cannot yet manage to jump on one leg, climb ladders, or manipulate a ball, it will also affect their fine motor skills, including graphomotor skills necessary for writing.

Correctly holding a pencil with three fingers is crucial for future writing, and it is good for a child to learn it before entering school because a wrong habit is very difficult to eliminate later. The child will need to be able to track letters with their eyes from left to right in school. Therefore, it is good for the child to get used to starting every activity from the left in a row.

A physically immature child feels excessively tired, which strains their immune system and increases their sickness. Due to frequent absences from school, the child's relationship with learning and school may subsequently be disturbed because they will not have continuity in learning.


Before starting school, it should already be more or less clear which hand the child will write with.

Laterality is a reflection of the dominance of brain centers. The most famous manifestations of laterality are right-handedness and left-handedness, with a preference for one of the paired organs, which then works faster, better, and more efficiently, occurring in most children from about two and a half years of age.

Children who do not clearly favor one hand at the start of compulsory school attendance are at a disadvantage because they need to perform activities falling into the fine motor skills complex in teaching. Students who alternate hands when writing are unclear about how to place the paper and hold the pencil, and these movements are insufficiently automated for them. Bilateral integration plays a role in automating the planning of targeted movements and contributes to cognitive awareness of certain spatial concepts, such as right and left. The tendency to switch hands and the inability to develop dominant hand skills may be related to a problem with vestibular processing of sensations or the persistence of certain primary reflexes.

If hand dominance is not yet clear, it is appropriate to perform a laterality test or undergo an assessment at an educational-psychological counseling center (in the Czech Republic called Pedagogicko-psychologická poradna).


Good verbal communication skills are very important for adapting well to school. A good understanding of language is assumed so that the child can comprehend the teacher's communication and show respect. Active communication skills simplify integration into social groups.

Other communication skills include non-verbal communication, proper pronunciation, and a sufficiently rich vocabulary. A child with a limited vocabulary usually struggles with fluent expression. Incorrect pronunciation can be caused by, among other things, inadequate maturity of the central nervous system. In such cases, the child cannot recognize the quality of sounds quickly and accurately, resulting in imprecise imitation. Sometimes the child can accurately imitate a sound but cannot differentiate it properly in words.

Incorrect pronunciation can also be caused by motor awkwardness of the speech organs or a functional defect. The child's upbringing environment or incorrect speech models (e.g. parents who stutter) can also play a negative role in speech development.


Preschool children rely on the immediate relationship between perception and imagination. However, just before starting school, thinking reaches the level of so-called concrete logical operations. Therefore, it is possible to work with children on superior and subordinate concepts. If the child cannot do it yet, it will be difficult for them to understand mathematics without a visual example.


An important prerequisite for intentional learning is the development of memory, including auditory (what we heard, what the teacher said), visual (what we saw), and motor (how we did it) memory. Visual memory is important for memorizing the shape of letters, which is a prerequisite for reading and writing.


Attention depends on children's interests. Therefore, it is important to develop attention to something that the child enjoys. Before entering elementary school, the child should be able to complete a task. Attention and concentration are closely related to the development of self-control and perseverance. Inadequate concentration is one of the most common reasons for deferring school attendance.


Visual and auditory perception must be more differentiated before starting school, meaning that children should be able to see/hear small differences and details. Practicing with worksheets in preschool is helpful.

Psychologically immature children cannot use their mental capacity, experience failure, and are not motivated to learn. They often react with inappropriate psychological defense mechanisms, such as neurotic symptoms (e.g. school phobia), psychosomatic disorders (abdominal pain, headache), behavioral disorders, negativity, etc. These children are also often restless, unfocused, playful, have problems with visual discrimination and graphomotor skills, which quickly leads to aversion to writing, as they experience repeated negative experiences regardless of the teacher's possible tolerant evaluation.

Social maturity

Social maturity is one of the prerequisites for a successful start in school. The level of self-regulatory processes is a prerequisite for acceptable adaptation to school and subsequently for academic success. The overall development of these processes aims to create a higher form of regulation than emotional regulation, which is willpower and awareness of duty. A socially immature child may appear passive - they may not want to participate or, conversely, they may constantly provoke conflicts and be unwilling to back down.

Emotional maturity

Emotional stability is a condition for a child to be able to cope with potential failure. Both of these are usually managed by appropriately self-confident and independent children. If a child is motivated, sees meaning in new activities and collaboration, is willing to acquire knowledge and learn, they are likely emotionally and intellectually mature.

Work maturity

The area of work maturity includes the ability to concentrate, complete tasks, but also choose an appropriate work pace.

Social and work immaturity is often the cause of deferred school attendance. These are usually shy, introverted, passive, unfocused, slow, dependent children, but also children who have little confidence, fear exploration and learning new things for fear of not being able to handle it.

An emotionally immature child experiences anxiety or fear regardless of their learning progress. They may also be fixated on their family and may have difficulty coping with competitive environments, evaluations of results, etc.

Postponement of School Attendance

In the Czech Republic, the postponement of compulsory school attendance is governed by Section 37 of Act No. 561/2004 Coll., on Pre-school, Basic, Secondary, Higher Vocational, and Other Education (the "Education Act"). Every parent is required to register their child for compulsory school attendance between January 15 and February 15 of the calendar year in which the child is to begin compulsory school attendance.

Compulsory school attendance begins in the school year following the day on which the child reaches the age of six. This means that parents must also register their child for school even if they decide to postpone attendance. When registering for the first year of primary school, the school informs the child's legal representative about the possibility of postponing compulsory school attendance.

The Education Act defines the postponement of compulsory school attendance in Section 37 as follows: "If a child is not physically or mentally sufficiently mature after reaching the age of six and the legal representative of the child requests in writing by May 31 of the calendar year in which the child is to begin compulsory school attendance, the headteacher of the school may postpone the start of compulsory school attendance by one school year if the request is supported by a recommendation from the appropriate educational advisory facility and a specialist doctor or clinical psychologist." In practice, this means that parents or legal representatives cannot decide on their own to postpone their child's school attendance, but are required to provide their request addressed to the relevant primary school with two recommendations. The assessment of the appropriate educational advisory facility means the opinion of the pedagogical-psychological counseling center (PPP), but in the case of a student with disabilities, the opinion of the appropriate special education center (SPC) is required. "The start of compulsory school attendance may be postponed for no longer than until the start of the school year in which the child reaches the age of eight."

Parents request the postponement of compulsory school attendance directly at the time of registration for compulsory school attendance and provide the request in the manner prescribed by law. In such a case, the headteacher of the school may decide directly on the postponement of compulsory school attendance. However, it is also possible not to request the postponement at the time of registration, but only to inform about the possibility of granting it. Parents request the postponement of compulsory school attendance from the headteacher of the school later, when they have all the necessary documents. However, the decision about the postponement must be made before the start of the relevant school year.

The parent delivers a copy of the decision to defer to the kindergarten, which extends the child's stay in the kindergarten by one year on this basis. During this year, the child no longer has to receive education for free, because according to §123 para. 2 of the School Act, education is provided to the child free of charge for a maximum of 12 months in the last year of kindergarten.

If a child's school attendance is deferred by one year, the parent is obliged to register the child again for the following year.

The School Act also takes into account the situation where unpreparedness for compulsory school attendance becomes apparent during the first year of primary school: "If a student shows insufficient physical or mental maturity for compulsory school attendance during the first year, the school principal may, with the consent of the student's legal representative, defer the start of compulsory school attendance to the following school year during the first semester of the school year."

In both cases where the school principal decides to defer compulsory school attendance, they will also recommend to the child's legal representative that the child either be educated in a so called preparatory class of the primary school or continue in the last year of kindergarten.

However, additional deferral seems to be the least suitable option for addressing school immaturity because a child who returns to kindergarten after spending some time in school is exposed to great psychological stress. The child may lose confidence in their abilities and develop a lack of trust towards school. A psychologist assesses additional deferral of school attendance based on an examination and available materials provided by the child's teacher. A better option is starting in a so called preparatory class.

Risk of unjustified postponement of school attendance

According to psychologists, an unjustified postponement of school attendance is associated with a certain risk. The child may lose motivation for schoolwork and may miss the time when it is set to start school. Matějček points out developmental regularities when the child should not be overloaded or under-stimulated and underestimated: "His mental capacity is not properly utilized, but (worse) is not being developed - so the child is actually neglected" (Matějček, 2005).

The child may get bored in preschool because their friends have already gone to school. When they finally start school after a year, they may get bored in school - at first, everything seems easy, but they may not learn how to learn right from the beginning. This problem will manifest later when the material becomes new even for a very advanced child.

Preparatory classes

"Preparatory classes" are in the Czech Republic originally established at primary schools and are intended for children who are socially disadvantaged – from a family background with low socio-cultural status, children at risk of social pathological phenomena, or asylum-seeking children. The aim of the preparatory class is to teach children communication, basic self-care, the Czech language, and ensure their relatively trouble-free transition to the first grade of primary school.

Since the school year 2017/2018, children who are expected to benefit from being placed in a preparatory class and have been granted a deferral of compulsory school attendance may now attend a preparatory class in primary school. The decision to place a child in a preparatory class is made by the school principal upon request from the legal guardian and a recommendation from the relevant counselling facility.

Preparatory classes should not replace the role of kindergarten but should help level the development of those children who, for any reason, have a deferral of compulsory school attendance. Preparatory classes, therefore, focus on levelling the child's development with regard to their school immaturity at a time when they should already be fulfilling compulsory school attendance. Teachers in preparatory classes should focus exclusively on children who have been granted a deferral of compulsory school attendance and who, for some objective reason, need to level their development.

A preparatory class can be established if at least 10 children will attend. If an insufficient number of children enrols in the preparatory class, the principal may request permission from the founder to exempt the school from the minimum number of children according to Section 23 (4) of the School Act.

Children in preparatory classes learn skills that they will need for school, but in a playful way. They complete worksheets, practice graphomotor or speech therapy exercises, gross and fine motor skills. The teacher develops their speech, social and communication skills, attention concentration, and so on. The main aim of the preparatory class is the all-around development of the child, and primarily their psychological, physical, and social readiness to enter the first grade.

The difference compared to the final year of kindergarten is the teaching time and the number of children per teacher. While there is one teacher for up to 28 children in kindergarten, a preparatory class can have a maximum of 15 children per teacher. Lessons are taught as in primary school from 8 am and usually last four hours. Unlike kindergarten, children bring food from home and eat it in the classroom. After classes, the child, like primary school pupils, goes for lunch and, if necessary, to an after-school club. Just like school children, children have a school bag and writing supplies. The child attends preparatory class for one school year. All national holidays and vacations apply to them - just like other elementary school students.

Early admission

According to the Education Act §36, para. 3, "a child who reaches the age of six from September to the end of June of the relevant school year may be admitted to compulsory school attendance in this school year if it is reasonably physically and mentally mature and its legal representative requests it".

If the child is born from September to December, comprehensive examination at the pedagogical-psychological counseling center (PPP) must precede their early school admission. If the child is born from January to June, a medical specialist's opinion is also required.

If the child is to succeed in school with older classmates, it is not enough to be mature for their age, but it must be clearly ahead in its development. Even if it may seem mature (e.g., already able to read), very often it is a child with uneven development of psychological functions. In this case, early school admission is not recommended because it would mean a very high burden for the child, which could also lead to academic failure.

A problem may also arise later in puberty. The age difference between a child who started school early and a child who had a deferral is up to two years, which is a significant difference during this fragile period. The child who started school early will still want to play, while older children have already entered puberty and have completely different interests.

The decision on early admission of a child to elementary education is issued by the school principal. In case of a negative result, it is not necessary for the child to attend the registration the following year. Generally, it is assumed that the child will start school in the school year indicated on the decision. If there is a change of address and the child is enrolled in another school, it is necessary to report this fact.

Author of the article: PhDr. Marja Volemanová, PhD.

Main sources:

  • Bednářová, Jiřina et kol (2017). Školní zralost a její diagnostika. Praha: Raabe. ISBN 978-80-7496-319-3

  • Edice Dobrá škola. Diagnostika školní zralosti. Praha: Raabe. ISBN 978-80-87553-52-7

  • Kucharská, A; Švancarová, Dana (2004). Bezstarostné roky? Praha: Scientia

  • Školský zákon.


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