Transition to school during COVID-19: Information for early childhood education and care services

Early childhood education and care (ECEC) transition to school practices may need to be adapted this year as a result of coronavirus (COVID-19). This webpage provides information and resources for early childhood professionals to support children transition to primary school in 2022.

Impact of COVID-19 on transition practices in 2021

We know that ECEC services and schools generally participate in transition to school activities in Term 3 and 4. However your service’s normal routine may have been disrupted due to COVID-19. Many of the face-to-face transition and orientation programs may also look different as a result of COVID-19 social distancing guidelines. Continue to align your transition policies and programs with the COVID-19 guidelines for ECEC services and the updated Kindergarten orientation guidelines.

Below are some of the immediate challenges you may be facing, and proposed strategies.

Reflect on children’s wellbeing: Research shows that prolonged stress, feelings of helplessness and loneliness as well as a lack of outdoor play may impact the resilience and wellbeing of children. Consider opportunities to understand the different needs of all children and their families. This may mean trying to find ways to increase the consistency of communication and maintaining supportive relationships.

Consider new ways to promote continuity of learning: Speaking with families about children’s learning and development will be increasingly important. Some children will have been absent from ECEC for extended periods and families may have developed insight around learning strategies and behaviours as well as concerns in preparing for school. Try providing ways for families to share this information.

Ensure equitable access for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, culturally and linguistically diverse families, and those families that may not have access to devices or the internet. Make transition practices flexible, responsive and inclusive, with adjustments and supports in place so that each child and their family can participate.

Practical tips on adapting your transition practice

You may want to develop new ways of working within your local transition networks during COVID-19. Transition networks primarily function so that early childhood educators, schools, OSHC services, and other interested parties can share information and support continuity of learning. Consider what networks and connections already exist and where the gaps are.

Useful activities to try:

  • Connect your transition networks remotely
    • Bring your meetings and planning sessions online through video-conferencing. Come together with your network and decide on what high quality transition practices will look like within the community this year
  • Questions to ask your local schools:
    • Is there a school-level transition planning team in place?
    • Are there contextual videos of the classroom environment that you can share with children and families?
    • When do you prefer receiving Transition to School Statements? Let’s develop a community-level transition timeline.
    • What virtual orientation activities can we plan together?
  • Share digital information with families
    • This could include: social stories, staff photos, activities, photos of the local school environment.
  • Build a positive relationship with the school’s onsite or local OSHC
    • This will help the transition for children and families who need access to education and care beyond school hours.
    • Consider having a virtual online visit with the OSHC, asking if they have any orientation materials to share.

Check out these resources:

  • Planning orientation visits with local schools? Review the guidance developed to support COVID-19 safe orientations for children entering Kindergarten in 2022.
  • After more ideas? Browse the Transition to school guide for educators and formative assessment resources for more ideas to inform teaching and meet the individualised needs of children.
  • Check out the department’s podcast conversations with Sue Dockett and Bob Perry. The podcast series discusses the importance of professional relationships, continuity of learning and the importance of evaluating transition practices.
  • What does the research say? Explore the transition to school research paper – a paper on the literature and research done on transition to school programs
  • Want to know how schools are adapting? Check out our school stories, where five schools share strategies they are using to support transition to school in unusual circumstances.

This year, some families may not be able to attend face-to-face orientation programs due to COVID-19 social distancing guidelines. Here are some ideas to continue interacting with families during COVID-19.

  • Guide families to guided learning packages
    • The packages contain learning activities for home aligned to the Early Years Learning Framework and support children to make a strong start to school.
  • Share Transition to School Statements with families
  • Engage families through different online mediums
    • This could be your website, social media, newsletters or emails. Let them know about any online local community transition events.

Check out these resources to share with families:

Engaging families with children with additional learning and support needs

Early and careful transition planning is critical for ensuring that children with additional learning and support needs are prepared to start school. Best practice involves collaborative planning between services, families and the involvement of early intervention professionals. It also involves the gradual preparation of children and families and ongoing communication between staff from early childhood education and school settings.

Have you seen the new inclusive learning support hub?

You may want to direct families and carers who have children with disability or additional learning and support needs to the new online Inclusive Learning Support Hub where they can easily find up-to-date information about how to access support.

It is important that ECEC educators and teachers complete a Transition to School Statement for every child transitioning to school in 2022 to support continuity of learning.

The statement:

  • Summarises a child’s strengths, interests and approaches to learning.
  • Passes this information between families, early childhood educators and teachers and Kindergarten teachers.
  • Gives children a voice in the process of meeting new people in the school environment.
  • Helps link the Early Years Learning Framework to the Early Stage 1 Syllabus.

Due to COVID-19 learning disruptions, services may not have spent as much time with children and may not feel they have enough information to complete a Transition to School Statement. However, the Transition to School Statement is an important opportunity to share what you do know about a child’s learning and development and outline intentional teaching strategies to their Kindergarten teacher next year.

Try this:

In ‘Section 1: My early education details’, you may want to:

  • Include information about the ECEC service’s context, such as the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) on planned transition activities and support, in the comment box at the end of the section.
  • Summarise the child’s attendance through on-site or learning from home programs in the ‘Enrolled days per fortnight’ comment box.

In ‘Section 2: How I feel about school’, you may want to:

  • Include whether the child has been oriented to their school virtually or what information the child would like to know about their new school.
  • Include any information about the child’s friendships.

In ‘Section 3: My early learning and development’, you may want to:

  • Have telephone conversations with parents and carers to help you complete the ‘intentional teaching strategies used’ comment box in the “child wellbeing” section.
  • This may include:
    • asking about sleep and energy patterns
    • how the child usually shows anxiety or distress
    • what strategies help their child to soothe and comfort themselves.

What do high-quality transition practices look like?

Transition is the collective responsibility of families, early childhood education and care services, schools and communities. High-quality practice involves strong relationships and collaborative planning between all stakeholders.

Early childhood educators and teachers play a key role in bringing everyone together to establish transition practices that best meet the needs of each individual child.

High-quality transitions incorporate the following key principles (adapted from Dockett, S. & Perry, B. (2014). Continuity of Learning: A resource to support effective transition to school and school age care. Canberra, ACT: Australian Government Department of Education):

1. Respect for diversity and equity

Recognition of diversity at the individual child, family and community level underpins effective transitions. The COVID-19 pandemic has meant there have been significant changes in children’s lives. High-quality programs consider the different impacts and implications for children, and tailor practices to the child’s individual needs.

Early childhood professionals:

  • Recognise that all children are individuals and their transition path will be unique.
  • Hold high expectations and recognise the strengths of each child, their interests and their culture.
  • Build on these strengths, interests and cultures in meaningful ways.

2. Secure, respectful and reciprocal relationships

Relationships are the core of successful transitions. As children transition to school, relationships change and need to be supported.

Early childhood professionals:

  • Work closely with families, schools and community and invest in reciprocal relationships.
  • Develop relationships and build shared understandings based on mutual respect, familiarity and empathy to help orient children to the school context.

3. Continuity of learning

Continuity of learning is providing children with the opportunity to build on, apply, transfer and adapt their learning in a new context.

Early childhood professionals:

  • Find out as much information as possible about what children know and can do, their development and dispositions.
  • Transfer this information to schools and wider transition networks through the Transition to School Statement and other information sharing tools.
  • Reach out to the outside school hours care (OSHC) service to help children access continuous care beyond the classroom (if the school has an OSHC service).

4. Planning, reflection and evaluation

All transition journeys are different, and this provides opportunities to learn from the perspectives and practices of others.

Early childhood professionals:

  • Establish regular meetings and pedagogical conversations about transition and acknowledge child and family reflections.
  • Reflect on assumptions around transition and evaluate their practices.
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