Collaborative partnerships supporting effective transition

This course will provide teachers with professional learning that assists them to:

  • reflect on the key role of partnerships in effective transition to school practices
  • consider innovative strategies to engage with transition to school during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This professional learning focuses on various methods which may be used to collaborate with family, community service’s and other agencies available within their school community to ensure equity and support effective transition to school.

Target audience

Primary school principals, school leadership teams and early childhood teachers involved in transition

Modes of delivery

1. Collaborative partnerships supporting effective transition video (18:58)
Collaborating with family, community services and other agencies


Welcome to collaborative partnerships supporting effective transition to school. I would like to acknowledge the Darug people who are the traditional custodians of the lands on which this recording takes place. I also acknowledge the traditional custodians of the lands on which each if you are living, learning, and viewing this recording. As we share our knowledge of teaching and Learning, may we also pay respect to Elders both past and present as it is their knowledge and experiences that hold the key to the success of future generations.

The session will help schools reflect on and consider innovative options to engage in collaborative partnerships supporting effective transition to school, particularly in situations where children may not have had the opportunity to attend their regular early childhood service or usual transition programs due to COVID-19.

Before we dive into collaborative partnerships, let's reflect on how effective transitions support a strong start to school. There are many definitions for transition to school, this one resonates particularly for the purpose of this session. Transition to school is an active process of continuity of change as children move into their first year of school. The process of transition occurs overtime, beginning well before children start school and extending to the point where children and families feel a sense of belonging at school, and when educators recognise this sense of belonging. Building specific connections between the schools and other providers, school educators and community members and organisations as part of a transition program helps build open communication and trust between the school and their community.

Contemporary research identifies crucial aspects of transition practices to guide schools, including collaborative and consultative processes that reflect the local school context and provide evidence markers to enable continuous school improvement. Relationships between all stakeholders that moved from surface contact to meaningful pedagogical discussions and practices, supports children in their transition, wellbeing, and academic engagement. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development report on transition highlights a growing body of research which shows that a successful transition to school is important to maintain the long-term benefits of learning and development. It highlights a key point for supporting successful transitions as the importance of engaging children and collaborating with families, professionals, early childhood educators, and community support agencies as key to planning effective transitions.

The Centre for Educational Statistics and Evaluation ‘What Works Best in Practice’ paper identifies 8 themes which research has linked to improve learning outcomes for children. One of these themes is collaboration. Professional collaboration during transition practices allows for the sharing of knowledge about children and provides the school with an opportunity to gather data about the children transitioning to help them make a smooth and seamless start to school. Professional collaboration is particularly important for the transition of children who are experiencing vulnerability or have a disability or additional support need. In addition, it is particularly important when children may not be able to participate in the usual transition practices for various reasons, including the current situation due to COVID-19. Professional collaboration is necessary to ensure each child’s transition is as successful as possible.

In order to achieve effective transitions, each child must be at the centre of all decision-making during the transition to school process. Connecting and building relationships with all stakeholders involved in children's lives is an essential component of transition to school practices. Most schools would have strong transition practices in place. However, these practices would be significantly impacted in 2020 due to COVID-19.

For various reasons children may experience disruptions in their early years, which can affect their learning and development, particularly when cascading effects continue overtime. With 2020 being a challenging year for children and families, it is more important than ever for the transition to school process to be collaborative, smooth and a happy journey.

So who might you connect with and what will that look like? The following slides will provide alternative ideas to consider when engaging children, families, early childhood educators, and other professionals in preparing for starting school 2021.

Transition programs provide an ideal opportunity to connect with families and develop positive relationships which are likely to continue as the child progresses through school. Early childhood educators have been part of a child's prior to school education and any other professionals who are part of the child's life will also provide great insights to support effective transition and continuity of education and care.

Successful transitions recognise the family as a child's first and most influential teachers. Research tells us that there is an inextricable link between high family engagement and a child's academic success and wellbeing. Transition practices, including orientating children and families to the school environment, experiences and routines remain an important priority for ensuring children have a strong and successful start to school. Connecting remotely with children and their families will help to allow children and their families the opportunity to meet the kindergarten teachers and other school staff who may play an important role during their transition to school, build relationships with children an establish a sense of belonging, collaborate with families to ensure children are known, valued and cared for, support families to complete and hand in the enrolment form and any additional documentation required and showcase your school and support children to become familiar with the new environment.

Some suggestions for connecting with families remotely are emails, zoom meetings and phone interviews which may involve the kindy teachers, the school principal, your community liaison officer, or Aboriginal education officers. Individualising these meetings will help you to focus in on relationships and understand each child's individual strengths and needs. You may set up a transition social media page such as a Facebook page for families to ask about transition related questions. This could help you to ensure relevant information and materials provided are understood by families. Perhaps you would like to host virtual school tours for the incoming families, particularly those who are new to your school and are unfamiliar with your space. You may like to host virtual transition sessions which may be accessed by a social media or the school website or any other school app such as SeeSaw or schoolbag app, utilise bilingual staff or a translation service where needed, deliver transition activity packs or dilly bags with resources which may be used to engage children in transition activities remotely, reflect the cultural diversity of the school community in the transition materials and activities, provide materials and information in home languages where possible, including a translated copy of the enrolment form, if necessary. Develop a social story for the children which addresses all aspects of starting school. Ensure it reflects your school community and include photos of key staff and significant areas within the school, such as a kindergarten classrooms, the library, your school hall, outdoor play areas, the school office, and the school canteen.

As children move from home to early childhood education and care services and then onto school, respect and acknowledgement of prior learning and a key focus on continuity support successful transitions. It is important to work closely with early childhood services now more than ever, as they hold a wealth of knowledge about each child’s strengths, interests and learning dispositions. Collaborating with your local early childhood service will help to deepen your understanding of what and how children learn in early childhood settings, and how that learning connects with the school curriculum, as well as help you to gather information about the children transitioning to your school. Contact your local early childhood service and have a conversation with the service director or the nominated supervisor. Let them know that you are keen to collaborate with them remotely to support continuity of learning and effective transitions. You should be able to find their contact numbers through your local council.

Some suggestions for connecting with early childhood services remotely are virtual meetings via zoom at your local early childhood service. This might include an activity such as having a kindergarten teacher reading a story to the children and engaging in a conversation about the story. Phone meetings with early childhood educators can help you to get to know the child strengths and needs, but remember it is important to have received parental consent prior to seeking information about children. You may host an online information session where preschools could invite the group of families enrolling into your school next year. This could help families to feel more supported as they know and trust the early childhood educators. Perhaps schedule a live Q&A forum specifically for children transitioning. Encourage the early childhood educators to write or draw with children about their expectations for school, and share that with you. Ask your local early childhood service to complete the New South Wales transition to school statement for all children who are attending your service.

These statements are completed at the end of each preschool year and with parental permission they are passed on to the school which the child will be attending. They are an important tool supporting a continuity of learning. The statement provides information on the child in the preschool environment and strategies that are used to support the child. And it also links to the early Stage one outcomes. It helps describe a child’s dispositions, attitudes and learning styles, and can help the kindergarten teacher to plan accordingly. It may also support implementation of Best Start by strengthening your understanding of the cohort coming into your school.

Information sharing with community support groups and therapists can be key to a successful transition for some children, particularly those who have a disability, additional support needs or are vulnerable. Once again, it is important to seek parental permission prior to contacting professionals for information on children. Collaborating with support professionals provides additional information which may be used to provide strategies to support the child's learning and wellbeing and to support the child in Kindergarten. This information may also be used to support the writing of access requests or individual education plans. It is important that schools take action to support children and their families in identified equity groups during transitions. This may include children who have English as an additional language or dialect, high potential and gifted children as well as children in out of home care. In some cases face to face parent teacher meetings may be essential this year. Principals are encouraged to refer to the department's community use and visitor guidelines and seek support from their Director, Educational Leadership to determine this on a case to case basis. A collaborative planning tool has been provided when you launch teacher resources on MyPL. It may be used to develop a transition plan for a child with a disability for additional support needs.

Some suggestions for connecting remotely with professional and community support groups are scheduling phone or video meetings with local early intervention or other therapy support agencies, including occupational therapists, psychologists and speech pathologists. Engaging with support services and your local AECG to ensure holistic support and culturally safe practices. The departments early intervention teachers and itinerant support teachers, early intervention work throughout the year prior to an eligible child starting school and continue to provide support into a child's first year of school. Itinerant support teachers, early intervention help by supporting the staff of early childhood classes to provide personalised learning and support, by developing individual coordinated transition plans to support children moving from early education into school and establishing and maintaining links with a range of local services in the community.

Reach out and make authentic connections with the many community organisations across the state who support vulnerable families and will partner with you to support smooth transitions. These may include early childhood services in your community and your local AECG. In addition, schools as community centres are hosted by New South Wales public schools and led by a local facilitator who coordinates and manage is a range of community engagement initiatives and programs supporting families with young children. If you have one within your community of schools, they are a great source of knowledge about the community support groups you may be able to connect and collaborate with. Some local agencies and services in your community might include Connect Child and Family Services who work throughout Western Sydney and the Nepean district facilitating transition to school projects. The Hive who work with communities, local service providers and government to support all children in the Mount Druitt area to start school well. And another example is Northcote, who work closely with families and carers of children aged zero to six years to develop the skills children need to take part in daily activities and achieve the best possible outcomes throughout their life. They work as an NDIS partner in the community to deliver early childhood early intervention services in New South Wales.

The current situation presents opportunities to draw on some of the innovative ideas that supported learning and engagement during the learning from home phase. Take a moment to pause the presentation now and reflect on these questions. If possible, discuss your responses with your team members.

Families and children may find themselves in a challenging or difficult environment for numerous reasons as the transition to school process begins. Transition and continuity of learning is outlined as a theme in the School Excellence Framework as it is an important part of school leadership and school planning. It is important for schools to identify a key team of people who coordinate transition to school planning, and it is ideal for schools to invest in a strong and committed transition team. What are you doing to support effective transitions now and do you have an action plan for the next years kindergarten cohort?

Please visit the Early Learning website for additional strategies and programs which may be used to ensure a positive start to school for all children.

Thank you for participating in this professional learning session. Feel free to contact us should you require any advice or support.

[End of transcript]

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