The Alberta government is bringing in changes that will require all students who enroll in kindergarten be five years old by December 31 of the school year.

The age limit won't come into effect until 2020.

Education Minister David Eggen said there is a need to set a standard between schools which currently require students be five years old when entering kindergarten and others that permit four-year-old students to enrol.  

"What we're seeing is that some Catholic school boards and public school boards in the same town or jurisdiction had the different ages," said Eggen. "They're competitive."

Ready for school

Eggen said the new limits are being adopted because evidence shows students should reach an "age of readiness" by the time they enter school to give them the maximum opportunity for success.

The age requirement is part of a package of amendments to the School Act that will see broad changes ranging from the elimination of distance limits for bussing students, to adopting professional standards for school principals and superintendents.

If passed, students would no longer have to live farther than 2.4 kilometres from school to qualify for bussing. The limit would be removed in time for the 2018-19 school year.  

Eggen says he realized the distance was a problem, when it was pointed out to him that it's about 2.4 kilometres from the legislature building to Rogers Place arena in downtown Edmonton.  

"That became a very graphic illustration of a problem," said Eggen.

The new standards and formula for transportation will be worked out with education groups across Alberta.

Other amendments to the School Act include establishing standards for Education Service Agreements (ESAs), which could help First Nations students gain access to provincial education regardless of where they live in Alberta. 

According to documents provided by Alberta Education, the ESAs could narrow the "achievement gap" between First Nation students and other students in Alberta.

School principals and superintendents would have to adopt professional standards by Sept. 1, 2019.