Transcript of Beginning school strong and successfully – Part 3

Transcript for Beginning school strong and successfully – Part 3 (45:00)

Kelly Birket – Early Learning Advisor Hi everybody, welcome back. This is part three of beginning school strong and successfully. The focus of this presentation is implementing effective transition practices. Before we start, I want to acknowledge country. I'd like to begin by acknowledging and paying my respects to the Ku Ring Gai people. The traditional custodians of the land I'm on today as I make this recording, I'd also like to pay respects to the traditional custodians of the land you're on today as you access this recording, I acknowledge the Ku Ring Gai peoples continuing connection to land, water and community. I'd also like to pay my respects to their Elders past present and Emerging and acknowledge any Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people viewing this presentation.

Welcome everyone, it's great to have you with us. My name's Kelly Birkett. I'm one of the Early Learning Advisors in the early learning team, and I'm here with my colleague Sheree Bell.

Sheree Bell – Early Learning Advisor Hi, everyone, as Kelly said, my name is Sheree Bell, and I'm one of the Early Learning Advisors in the Early Learning team.

Kelly Birkett – Great thanks, Sheree and just a reminder if you'd like to contact, Sheree or I there is email address on the screen.

OK, so Part one addressed outcomes one to three and today we are in part three and we're focusing primarily on outcome for learners will develop deep knowledge of effective transition practices and the skill to identify and apply those which are appropriate to their own school context. As mentioned in previous parts, you can access the materials and videos and resources referred to in this course in the Microsoft team. Again, this is the overview of the course in its entirety. So this is Part three.

Sheree Bell – This session is looking at taking a closer look at some effective transition practices. The first one we will take a look at is transition networks. Transition networks are important because they enhance the linkages between sectors and services and promote collaboration for the benefit of children and families. Networks foster community focus on transition and raise the profile of the importance of transition in the community. Network members share a common interest in improving school transition and outcomes for children and families generally.

Kelly Birkett – Yes, sorry about that everybody. We just got one little bit of text come up on its own, there we go.

Sheree Bell – Oh great. Thanks Kelly. Your essay with transition networks, thinking about how they operate. Transition networks usually initiated by schools or other Department staff as schools are the hub or the central contacts for the local early childhood education services. They comprise of educators from local early childhood services. Community agencies school staff, both government and private and other stakeholders, usually networks, they meet once a term to jointly plan transition practices and community events, or participate in shared professional learning. Networks often also operate as a professional learning community of practice. So how does schools benefit? A wide repertoire of experience and knowledge can be tapped into ideas shared and issues jointly solved. So the transition network can be particularly helpful for situations supporting some of the vulnerable about in the last session, so tailoring transition to school support for children with a disability or children and families with the refugee status for Aboriginal children and families and children from disadvantaged backgrounds starting school.

Kelly Birkett – Yes, great. Thanks Sheree. Also keep in mind that networks operate informally, as well as very formally and whatever is going to be manageable and work for your school is definitely the best way to go.

Sheree Bell – Yes, absolutely again it's comes back to context and community and cohort and yet being able to have those collaborations and partnerships in a way that works for everyone in the group. Really because the purpose is what's going to support the children and their families most.

Kelly Birkett – Yes

Sheree Bell – So we've actually got some recordings and some illustrations of practice. So there's some videos of Department staff discussing transition practices that they've implemented, you may want to take some time just now to go and take a look at the videos. Maybe see if there's any that are of particular interest to you and your school team. If needed, you can access downloaded copies of the videos in teams. Is that right Kelly?

Kelly Birkett – Yes there's MP4 files of each of the videos. We are conscious we haven't got the links here for two of them we are just updating those links so you can go into the Microsoft team and you'll be able to get a copy of the videos that you're interested in and have a listen.

Sheree Bell – Fantastic and I think again they're covering different contexts and different illustrations of practice. So yes, definitely have a listen to those.

Kelly Birkett – Yes, great thanks Sheree. OK, so the next practice we're going to have a little look at is reciprocal visits, this is referring to staff from an early childhood education service visiting school staff and vice versa. So visiting one another in their settings. OK, so a reciprocal visit. They generally involve staff as I just said from early childhood education services and schools visiting one another in each others settings. These visits provide an opportunity for school staff to meet and observe individual children in the early childhood education setting. In addition, during the visits and ongoing communication staff participate in informal conversations, playing collaborative transition activities and discuss any additional tailored transition support required for individual children. Many schools at early childhood services use the visits as an opportunity for teachers to meet and enhance their shared professional understanding of early childhood and school based learning environments and practices. Reciprocal visits can assist in developing and greater understanding of the continuity of learning between Early Learning and school settings. This is a reference from Hopps, he's done a lot of research in the area of the communication between the two settings. Communication between educators has been widely advocated as a practice which can enhance children's transition to school and this last point is referenced from Dockett and Perry. Reciprocal visits strengthening relationships between educators in the early childhood and school sector, can have a positive impact on children’s transition to school.

Sheree Bell – They've got some fantastic research and articles. Catherine Hopps and Dockett and Perr, so they're definitely worth checking out and reading some more about.

Kelly Birkett – Yes, they sure are. So, if you'd like to listen to how one particular school, Woy Woy Public Schools on the Central Coast how he's initiated and undertaken visits. This video here, I guess Matt outlines some of the activities and then he overviews the logistics and details of how his school connects with local early childhood education services. It is an interesting video Matt brings up some of the challenges he's had to address, but definitely a great illustration of practice. So if you want to listen to that now, I suggest you pause the recording and follow that link and open up in another window.

Sheree Bell – Thanks Kelly, what will take a bit of a look at now is connecting with families, which is quite broad. So let's go in and unpack that just a little more and look at some of the ways to connect with families.

This is an overview of some of the practices that will support some not necessarily all but families to be ready for transition. So connecting with families, planning connections with families that focus on their strengths and respect their knowledge. He could provide opportunities for families to join school and classroom tours. I know that's a little more difficult in the current context. Attend information sessions, ask questions and raise concerns. Share information about their child, meet and socialise with other families and meet a range of the school staff. He could be providing outreach programs for rural and remote families, or providing volunteer opportunities after the child has commenced school. Now there's a link there to a document from the Victorian Department of Education transition or positives start to school, which is great, so you can check out the link to that PDF using the link on the screen. Is that one also in the teams files Kelly?

Kelly Birkett – Yes.

Sheree Bell – Perfect. So a couple of different ways you can do this

Kelly Birkett – If you like that information sheet you go to the website because there's a lot probably a dozen of different topics. You might find something else that you're interested in.

Sheree Bell – That’s fantastic, sorry, I'm just trying to move the screen. Now I've gone a bit too far, sorry. There we go. Another way that schools can connect with families is through the provision of information packs. Some schools choose to provide children and families with an information pack as a way of supporting their families to learn a little bit more about the school. So some things that you might include in an information pack. There might be a school information booklet covering the operations of the school like including bell times, who the staff leadership team are, school absences protocols for communicating with the school, traveling to and from school, how to access translation services, how to download the school app or webpage, the canteen menu, uniform details, or homework. Just kind of all the in's and outs of the runnings of the school. It could contain some information about the early stage one curriculum. So what is it that's taught in kindergarten in each of the learning areas. You could have some information on how families can support their child's transition, so looking at skills like being able to take their jumper on and off or taking turns or opening up their lunch box or having experienced coping with disappointments. Following instructions for example, even a social story about commencing kindergarten. You can see some images there that Bellambi Public School have kindly shared with us from their information pack.

You might include in your information packs might be our countdown calendar featuring events or activities leading up to the commencement of kindergarten. Contact details for before and after school care or the P&C. There could be a parent guide for handwriting in the early years for instance, and there is a link therefor that if you'd like to look a little bit more in to providing that.

Kelly Birkett – There's actually two versions on the Department's website both are good. Yes, you don't have to make your own you can download from the Department's website.

Sheree Bell – Fantastic. Definitely worth checking out to see if that's suitable for your context for sure. What else could you provide? Maybe some web links or other information about supporting learning at home. Maybe some reading or some simple number games. You can see the image there on the right is for the learning potential website, which is a good link to provide to families, and I think in the last part Kelly provided a link to, was it raising children network? That's also another great link, isn't it?

Kelly Birkett – Yes, it's good. It has activities as well. I love this learning potential. It is a federal government initiative. Just really, really easy to follow and just sets out the types of things families can do at home to support their child's learning. Really good resource

Sheree Bell – Fantastic, and the image on the left there you can see is a calendar of events. Thanks again to Bellambi public school for sharing what would they include in their information pack.

So another way to connect with families and children could be through social stories and we kind of mentioned that providing this is part of the information packed to provide these social stories, so social stories can be general for all children or targeted to support an individual child. Often they are in the format of a printed booklet and include photos taken from around the school or some key staff members. Each families provided a copy and asked to read and discuss it multiple times with their child before they start school. Some schools have made narrated videos and share a link or a copy on a USB with families. Social stories detail the visual aspects of kindergarten and school routine so it could be visiting the library. For example, arriving at the school or the school playground. The school stories really help children know what to expect at school when they come and can kind of relieve some of the anxiety that some children may be experiencing about that, not knowing. They tell children what's expected of them during certain parts of the day as well, because coming to school looks a little bit different obviously than it does being at home or being in a preschool setting, for example. So there are some social story templates available in the teams resource folder, is that right Kelly?

Kelly Birkett – Yes, yes, there are. So those ones actually shown in the image there and also early learning has developed two social story templates. One for starting school and one for starting preschool, and these have actually got sample text already in the main sample photos and the idea is that they've been written in a way that staff can keep the text as is if it does fit their school or tweak it slightly to personalise and then again with the images they can stay as they are, or they can be replaced with photos from around your own school. The idea is that they're very easy to use and they are available on the Department's webpage within Early Learning and then transition.

Sheree Bell – Fantastic that sounds good that you can use them ready to go. Or you can actually personalise and modify them for your context. That's great

Kelly Birkett – Yes. So we might just skip this slide. Sorry I've got these slides in the wrong order, so this is the next one.

Sheree Bell – Oh OK, no problem. In thinking about connecting with families. We've also got a video from Tarro public school with the principal Kelly O'Shea discussing why and how her schools developed a transition video for incoming children and families. So you may like to take some time now to pause the recording and go and take a listen to what Kelly has to say about the transition video for incoming children and families. Use the link there or it is available in teams as well.

Kelly Birkett – Yes, so the Tarro one that Kelly is talking about is made very much in the social story format or general social story.

Sheree Bell – Fantastic. So many great illustrations of practice and videos from lots of different schools.

Kelly Birkett – Yes. So on the right there is a list of other examples including the Tarro one, of social stories that schools have made in the video format. So they are all available in the teams folder as well. If you just want to see what sort of things other people are doing. The social story video or the virtual tour is becoming more and more popular, you have a little look and you might be interested in pursuing that.

Sheree Bell – Yes, I think in the current context, video is a popular way to connect with the community families and children. So it's great to see some illustrations of practice there from all that variety of Schools.

Kelly Birkett – Yes, we'll just go back to the previous slide.

Sheree Bell – OK, so the other thing to have a think about, have a bit of a look through is the Department's web page because it contains information for families as well, so you can see on the left hand side there, the parent and carer's section of the Department website. The link is provided there on the screen. Some parents will also find transition information useful around starting kindergarten, such as best start kindergarten assessment. You can see there on the right. There's lots of different aspects that are covered on that particular part of the website as well, so the links provided there. So go check that out. That might be something that you might like to provide to your families.

Kelly Birkett – Yes, there's also a couple of very short little videos there like one minute videos of a child getting ready for school and a day in kindergarten that you might find interesting too

Sheree Bell – Great. So there really is a lot of resources that hopefully will be helpful in planning for transition.

Kelly Birkett – Great, thanks Sheree, so I'll just go up to the next section. OK so this is the last section of this recording. We're going to focus on orientation program. Orientation programs are a part of your overall transition. They are one of the transition practices in Part one we noted that the purpose of orientation programs is to orientate the child and family to the school environment. So now we will look more closely at the types of activities that can be part of an orientation program and the first thing we're going to look at to spend the most time on is the supported play group we mentioned when we were talking about supporting children from refugee or newly arrived background, or from a diverse, cultural background that play groups are particularly helpful. They provide a soft entry into the school environment, allowing children and families to develop trust and familiarity with the school and begin to develop a sense of belonging to the school community. What the supported playgroups looks like depends on the school. Often they might be staffed by a teacher who's been released from class or a non-class based teacher. There might be a mentor. There might be a local community service worker who is also part of the program, or there might be a facilitator, so often play groups might be running the school site, but sometimes they're actually run as a bit of an outreach program in a park or a Community Centre, and generally it's sort of two or three hours a week and the children attend with a carer or their family. When the supported playgroups on the school site it provides an opportunity for the development of relationships between families and school staff, and opportunities for ongoing informal communication. Sometimes schools will self-fund to release the staff member to run the play group or they might partner with a community organisation who provides the staff or have a community use agreement in place for a community group to use school facilities. This is where the development of the relationships and the collaborations really come into their own, because if you do have a community group running the play group, you're going to need to have a lot of communication about the purpose and the protocols, and even just the logistics, but you know, very, very worthwhile.

Generally, play groups provide a range of play based activities which are familiar inviting and open ended. Sometimes supported playgroups or usually run concurrent parents, so there might be a time for the children and the parents to play together. Then maybe the parents might do an information session and then continue playing with the children.

Sheree Bell – Yes, from people who do have support or have implemented supported playgroups I always just hear about how effective it has been in their context and how the families have that great building of relationship and connections from the supported playgroups.

Kelly Birkett – Absolutely so for refugee children or children, newly arrived in Australia because supporter play group provides an opportunity to make sense of their world and explore a new environment. It can be a restorative and healing experience to support children affected by trauma to recover. The opportunity to engage in play in close proximity to their parents, supporting the development of resilience. The play group provides the opportunity to develop and practice social and emotional skills so those skills that we know so important that are critical for kindergarten. Waiting your turn, self regulation following the rules, negotiating and sharing all these things can be addressed in the play group through a play based activity program. Play groups provide opportunities for the development of skills and understandings needed to interact positively with others. An opportunity to gain confidence through positive interactions with peers. That's very similar. I wonder if that should be one point together and the opportunity of a time for the child and parent to play together enhancing their attachment.

So if you haven't had any experience with a supported play group, you might find this interview very interesting in it, Abby, who's a teacher at Banksia Road Public School, talks about the play group she established as part of the beginning school well program and her play group was targeting culturally diverse families. It's a great lesson, so if you want to pause and listen now, that's great, or you might want to have a little listen later.

OK, so if you are organising and running a supported play group it is a little bit of a checklist to ensure that it's a high quality play environment. You absolutely want to have a focus on play. You don't want to focus on stencil's or teaching skills, academic type skills. You want to focus on play so that the child will develop in all their domains. You want a respectful, welcoming and inviting environment. You want your play group to reflect the culture of the school as well as participating families. You want to encourage participation. You want the environment to be inclusive, and as mentioned, promote learning through play so the resources should reflect that and support play based learning by having open ended resources you'll be able to challenge the older children whilst keeping the younger children safe and you want your play group, whatever you provide you need to provide choice for the children so they can choose which play experience they engage with.

Sheree Bell – I know I spoke too some schools who had implemented supported play group as well Kelly and they particularly had a lot of success with doing some gardening and some work with putting some plants and doing a veggie garden together. That was a really great way for that particular community in their play group to connect.

Kelly Birkett – Yes, so it sounds like probably that was a strength or an area of experience. The children and families might already have had and so that, yes, it's built upon that. Yes sounds good.

Sheree Bell – They like that bit of balance between the indoor environment and outdoor environment. They were very fortunate they had that bit of space outside.

Kelly Birkett – Yeah, OK, so I might get you to move that on Sheree. Alright, thank you. OK so generally in early childhood Setting, educators will create a series of little areas or nooks. They might use furniture mats or rugs to define the areas. If you're doing this it is a good idea to provide opportunities which address all of the domains of development. So here again the same domains at the Australian Early Development Census looks at Children's development in. I've taken their little image so you want to make sure that you're addressing physical health and well being, social competence, emotional maturity, language and cognitive skills and communication skills. So for instance I guess what I'm referring to is providing a broad range of play activities which address each of those domains. So you want to also provide for a range of types of play, quiet play, boisterous physical play, a book area, sensory or messy play role play, a construction area, creative art, craft or music area, writing, drawing area, numeracy, games and activities. If you have access to an outdoor area that's unreal, so then if you did, you could include activities such as painting with water, throwing beanbags into a bucket, as Sheree mentioned, planting seeds, an obstacle course, chalk drawing on cement, some sort of water activity, mud, slime, sand, bubble blown, there's lots of options there If you don't have experience with this sort of program. The key thing is to provide a large range of options that are open ended and then allow the children to select all to choose the activity which they are interested in.

OK, so with your equipment and materials it is important to select items that we mentioned are engaging and invite children to play. We want to encourage the children to explore, discover and experiment. As I mentioned before, you want open ended materials which cater for a range of ages and abilities. I want materials which can be used flexibly with multiple uses, reflect the diversity of the school community and a safe clean and angle condition. I you can use a combination of commercial, natural and recycled materials and just keep in mind trying to include activities or experiences that families can replicate at home because you want them to support their child's learning at home. If there's some things that they can do at home, you might be able to afford some really great resources, but by using recycled materials or reusing things that you've got around you'll definitely enable them to be able to replicate at home. As I mentioned before, definitely avoid using any sort of worksheet or everyone has to sit down and do the same thing at the same time. This is a routine of what an example of a supported play group. It's up to you depends on your time. It depends on the families. It's really, really up to you how you do it, so I'll just have a read through those eight points. It's really important that your routine, each session is the same and that helps the children and their families with predictability. Just like in Kindi you are going to need to teach everyone. You'll play group routines and expectations. I don't want to say the word behaviour, but you know everyone needs to know what the expectations are with regard to keeping their hands to themselves and helping pack away. Sometimes play groups provide free to all, they ask the children to bring their own fruit just so that they can have that experience of everyone sitting together and sharing something to eat often. Generally playgroups also then have some sort of signal to let everybody know that play times over, it might be a song, and then when the song finishes, everybody packs away.

Sheree Bell – It's lovely when new people can come together and share, share a meal or break bread as such. It kind of goes across cultures doesn't? It's a really nice way too sit together and build those relationships.

Kelly Birkett – Absolutely and so good for the children because that's what they'll be doing. They'll be sitting with their friends when they start kindergarten, so it's a great experience.

Sheree Bell – Absolutely.

Kelly Birkett – OK, thanks Sheree. So just some resources if you are looking at initiating a play group or working with someone else to establish a play group in our teams folder, there's a document. The first document there, a word document. I just list some appropriate play experiences, and then there's quite a lot of these in the middle there. These sheets there, one or two pages long and they are just from the WA Play Group Association. They just talk about it isn't what you need and what the children are learning and how you might go about setting it up and then the final document there is how to start a play group. There's some information that might not be specific to you in a school setting, but definitely worth a read.

OK so I'm going to call these play sessions now. Each school called some different things. Some call them Orientation sessions or transition sessions. Basically it's an extension on the play group idea. It's a series of play sessions. Children attend, but the key difference is they don't have a carer or parent with them. Generally they are a little more regular, their regular over a longer period of time, so it might be that they attend for two hours a week throughout term three and four. Some schools run these, some do not, some run them for three sessions. Some run them for six. It's again a local decision. As mentioned in Part one, the purpose is not to teach your provider preschool and at that the sessions should not be aimed at addressing skill deficits. The key thing for a child in the year before school is to be enrolled in a regulated, approved early childhood Education Centre. So your play sessions shouldn't be trying to replicate that. If the child hasn't or isn't attending preschool, I'm definitely encourage the family to enrol them in either preschool or some sort of long day care service. Some sort of service that implements the early years learning framework. Yes, it's important that your play session don't become or they are not seen as a mini kindergarten, the best place for a child prior to school is in a regulated approved early childhood service.

OK, just back to the slide the second dot point. The children engage in meaningful play based classroom experiences and group activities. So things like stories, singing, and games. Often information sessions for families are run concurrently with the content determined by local need and culture. For example, there might be an optional session for families. Do they bring their child, leave them at the play session and go off and listen to an information session about effective parenting? The benefits of play, road safety, helping their child with literacy or numeracy, or healthy eating at school and home. The great benefit of these sessions is that they provide an opportunity for school staff to observe the children as they engage with the school environment, identifying strengths and any emerging needs. Children and families meet and engage with teachers, key staff and other children and families. Thanks Sheree.

OK, so often run in, at the same time, in tandem with the play sessions, buddy program. So sometimes the buddies actually get involved at the play sessions. Sometimes though, they don't get involved until the start of kindergarten. The benefits of buddy program. So the promotion of social support networks transitioning children develop a sense of community and belonging in the school and an enhance their sense of the schools as a friendly and supportive place. So as you know the programs pair children commencing school with older children at the school, and I've heard of many variations I've heard of the pairing with the new kindies with their children who will be in year one who just left kindy. The children who will be year six, year three. It's very much a local decision. Generally the older buddy is provided with some sort of training about communicating and engaging with the little buddy. The buddy pairs might participate in structured activities together, or they might choose the activities they engage in, and often there buddy programs, you know, run for the whole year and develop into reading sessions were the buddy and the little buddy read together. There's lots of variations.

OK, so that's the end of the information for this presentation. So the idea now is to complete step three of the reflection scaffold. So this requires you to pause the recording and just think about everything we've covered in these sessions. So sessions, one, two and three. Think about strengths and needs of your community and their transition practices examined thus far in this course. Also, it's not written here, but think about, refer to yourself assessment. The first step of the scaffold, identify practices you would like to trial or modifier to support the children transitioning into your school and then complete step three of the beginning school strong and successfully action plan template. In point two there it's got the word modify that's to acknowledge you may have some practices in place already that are going pretty well, but you'd like to tweak them after what you've heard today or after listening to one of the videos or one of the reading. That's great. We're not saying to throw everything out and start completely from scratch. If you've got stuff that you think is going well, you might just want to tweak it a little bit to improve its effectiveness. It's up to you to decide how many practices you think you should either trial or modify. It's going to be manageable. So maybe for now, for this year it might just be two or three. Keep in mind though you can't just keep piling up your workload if there's already a couple of practices that your school uses that are going well. Don't overload yourself. You might want to let something go or like I said, just modify something. If there's more than a couple that you want to try just wait until the following year. Select the practices discuss in parts two or three that caught your attention, interest or curiosity. They'll be some that will work well in your school, but not in another school, and it's only you how would know that. Finally, it's advisable that the implementation of this plan not just be the responsibility of one staff member. I hope you've got a transition team and then you can get other people on board with you because it's very hard to make change on your own. It's better if you've got a little team. So also to support yourself doing this task. You might want to refer to the Microsoft team resources folder. Have a look through the videos and some of the readings there. One of the resources that's been developed by the Department is part of the transition to school toolkit is a list of effective practices, you might want to go back to that, have a look at that. Just one more final thing. If your school plan includes transition as a strategic direction or a strategy addressing a strategic direction, probably I wouldn't work on this particular scaffold here for the action plan, I would go and work on that, whatever it is, documentation you've got to address that in your school plan. OK.

Sheree Bell – No point of kind doing it in two places, you know make it works what’s currently happening in your school for sure.

Kelly Birkett – Absolutely, you just make it work for yourself. For this PL you don't have to actually submit this reflection scaffold after you finished it, so there's no pressure on how you use it or what you do. The key thing is that you are able to take away what you've heard and use it to improve your transition practices.

OK, thanks everybody, I hope you enjoyed this session and you're going to join us again for part four.

Sheree Bell – Yes, thanks Kelly, that was great, all those some illustrations of practice that were highlighted great.

Kelly Birkett – Thanks Sheree, OK thanks everyone

Sheree Bell – Thanks.

End of transcript

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