Hi! We are in exactly the same situation with our two year old son, who has a late April birthday. We had no plans whatsoever to hold him back, he's very smart, has excellent impulse/self control, is very social, and handles childcare with aplomb, but having seen how prevalent it is to hold children (particularly boys) back, we have had to rethink things. Our daughter, born in February, was ALMOST the youngest in her Prep class (and only two younger- one of whom has had to repeat), but she is extremely tall and handled Prep exceptionally well. Now, in Year One, she IS the youngest in her new class. It has hit home, although our 4yo son looks like he will be more than ready to start Prep with other 4/5 yr olds when it comes time, if most of the of the children are 6, and physically he is a lot smaller, it is a whole different story.
Anyway, a number of friends have had their children (boys and girls) in Strathcona ELC (4yo and pre prep) and everyone speaks very highly of it. I have not had a single negative review. In fact one mother of a boy in my daughter's class says it was only because of Strathcona he was made ready for school, because the kinder he was in was definitely not helping. Its teachers, excellent child/ teacher ratios and its programs etc were instrumental in bringing out his best before formal schooling. We have put our son's name down and are hoping that he will get into 4yo kinder and on advice of the staff there, if we NEED to then hold him back, he can then do the Pre Prep Year.
I toured Strathcona and it was nice, I got a great vibe from the staff and what I really liked was the fact that they aim for an equal share of boys and girls in the Pre-Prep program. I think 4yo might be more girls though, mainly because there are more girls applying. But with the playground and the opportunities on offer, and the feedback from parents, I have no hesitation in aiming for Strathcona.
For Fintona, interestingly, I only know of one parent whose child went there- a boy. Not a great experience apparently, as she felt it was definitely more geared toward girls. I must say when I had a look myself (before realising my son would not meet the 4yo kinder birthdate cutoff imposed by Fintona and there was no flexibility), it was absolutely lovely, great building and facilities, beautiful space, lovely teachers, but not a lot of 'rough and tumble' outdoor space/ equipment, it didn't have the pool (which I thought was an attractive part of the Strathcona Prep Prep Program) and every room I looked at had fairies, girl, girl and more girl stuff, and my son gets enough of that at home with his sister. Books like Isabella's Secret were being read (a great book, but it further galvanised my thoughts- this is really a place for girls) and there were a lot fewer boys than girls observed. I think, from what I saw, the comments of my friend were being played out on the tour (although I must say, that day, some of the kids were allowed to get muddy in the garden, which was kind of nice and the teachers were more than fine with that, and the boys from one class were constructing something with some wood and little hammers, so obviously the teachers are making the effort to address, but still....soooo many fairies
With the religious aspect, I didn't get the impression that either school were hardcore religious. I know for Strathcona there is Chapel, but I can't imagine that this would be imposed on the younger ones- except maybe Easter or Christmas???, but could be wrong - I didn't think to ask. But you can get some pretty hardcore teachings at the local kinder (e.g. my daughter was asking about the man who got nailed up when she came home from her local kinder a couple of years back, I was astounded).
Another ELC Pre Prep Program that I have heard is great is Kingswood College at Box Hill. General feedback has indicated it is fantastic. I did a tour though, absolutely loved the teacher I met, but thought the building was dilapidated and I am an aesthetic snob, I'll take the nice building for my son thanks
. The rest of the school was quite nice though. Another friend has had her son go to the MLC ELC and said it was great - but that is Kew, so locationally might not suit. I looked at Preshil's ELC also, absolutely would have been wonderful for my arty, very creative, leftfield daughter, but my son is one of those kids that crave very clear structures and boundaries, and chooses cars and diggers over dreamcatchers, so I thought it wouldn't have suited him so much as the more 'formal' private ELCs, but for the highly creative kid, I would pick that for ELC over the others. Have written sooo much, am obviously avoiding doing some work