Transition to school

This literature review was originally published 3 November 2021.

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In 2020, approximately 100,000 students started primary school in NSW, including 70,610 children at government schools (ABS 2020). For many of these children, the transition will be a positive experience. However, some children may find this transition challenging, and this can have lasting impacts on their educational outcomes.

The importance of a successful transition to school is well recognised across the literature. It is considered a significant event for both children and their families, and one that can have a considerable impact on a child’s longer-term academic, social and wellbeing outcomes (OECD 2017; Sayers et al. 2012; Schulting et al. 2005). The transition to school is also a significant event for the educators in a child’s life.

This paper updates the 2016 Transition to school literature review by the NSW Department of Education’s Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation (CESE). It can be used by early childhood education and care (ECEC)1 services, schools and families to expand understandings of the transition process and inform practices that can support successful transitions for all children. It examines the existing literature on the transition to primary school from home and/ or ECEC settings. This encompasses a number of issues, including:

  • what constitutes a successful transition to school
  • how the concept of school readiness is defined and what school readiness incorporates
  • the key factors which support a successful transition to school for children, their families and educators.

Although there is a significant amount of literature on this topic, there remains a lack of clarity surrounding how to measure a successful transition to school.

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