Partnerships for transitions
How to work together to support inclusion, learning and wellbeing during times of transition with Dr Kathryn Hopps, an early childhood educator, researcher and consultant.
22 October 2021
Transitions are a regular occurrence for young children, their families and educators. Transitions include significant educational changes such as starting at a new early learning or school age care service, or starting primary school for the first time. The National Quality Standard, Quality Area 6 recognises that collaborative partnerships have a role in supporting children’s inclusion, learning and wellbeing and these are particularly important during times of transition.
Transitions are times of both continuity and change (ETC Research Group, 2011). It is equally important for collaborative partnerships to support children and their families in relation to changes in identity, roles, relationships and expectations as well as in providing continuity in the way children’s learning, wellbeing and inclusion are supported in the old and new settings.
When people collaborate, they do more than simply communicate with each other. Collaboration involves working together to achieve a shared vision or goals. Communication is at the heart of collaboration and often involves the exchange of information between people, but there is another important function of communication: the building of relationships between people which can lead to working together. It is these relationships that support children, families and educators during transitions.
Working together with others to support children is always essential, but even more so in the current times with transitions impacted by Covid-19 restrictions. Collaborative partnerships might look different during times of crisis, but the benefits of thinking differently, adapting and innovating in relation to transition practices can lead to new ways of working together that might emerge as being so valuable that they are sustained into the future.
Collaborative partnerships for transitions are best planned for and resourced throughout the year. Relationships that support collaboration develop over time and depend upon mutual trust and respect. From the very first contact between people, such as a new family’s first experience with an education and care service, the foundations for the development of trusting relationships are being laid.
The following examples of collaborative partnerships for transitions are mostly related to transitions to school, however the practices can be adapted for other transitions.
Partnerships with families
There are many ways of working collaboratively with members of children’s families, including parents, guardians, kinship carers, grandparents, siblings and extended family members. Seeking families’ views and input into transition planning and providing regular opportunities for two-way communication and relationship building are key to collaborative partnerships.
Hopes and aspirations
When enrolling a new family at your service make time to meet individually with them and ask about their hopes and aspirations for their child. Follow-through with providing regular updates and opportunities to talk together about how things are progressing. Use a Strengths Approach (McCashen, 2017) to collaborate with families and children to address any challenges which may arise.
Involve family members in the provision of transition information. For example, reaching out to past or present families at your service to invite older siblings or cousins already at school to make a video or give a talk on-site to children about what school is like. Parents of children already at school could also share their top starting school tips with new families.
Invite families from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds to share celebrations and traditions around starting school and work together to include these at your service.
Partnerships with educators
Collaborative partnerships between educators can support children’s transitions including in providing continuity of learning and supports for their wellbeing. These partnerships can also support families in helping to connect with familiar faces in new settings and feeling informed and confident during times of transitions.
Develop community resources
Educators from a range of education and care settings can work together to produce resources to support and connect families. For example: establish a transition to school social media page, produce a video or leaflet about starting school or host parent information sessions online.
In addition to the transfer of information between settings such as informal transition statements, with parental consent educators can meet online or in-person to further discuss key information to support individual children’s learning and wellbeing. Personal contact can build trusting relationships between educators and lead to collaborative partnerships throughout the year.
Partnerships with community
Collaborative partnerships between educators, families, children, other professionals, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders, local government, community agencies and groups can support children’s transitions now and in the future.
Throughout NSW there are communities where various organisations work together to plan celebrations of children starting school. See for example Bathurst’s School-Starters Picnic or Wollongong’s Lord Mayors Transition to School Picnic in the Park. This year community celebrations may look different but reach out to other key agencies in your community to see what might be possible online or on-site.
Evaluating transition programs and practices is a key opportunity to collaborate with the wider community. Together communities can explore how transitions are experienced by all families. Transition network groups are well-placed to do this collaborative work which could involve asking these questions at a community forum about transitions: What are we doing well? What could be done better? Who could we collaborate with to support all children? Are transitions in our community culturally safe and supportive of all children and families to be proud of who they are and where they come from?
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