A positive start to school is important and depends on everyone working together to make it happen – family, community, early childhood service and the school team.
Advice for school planning and orientation provides advice to support schools to consider alternate ways to engage families and children in preparation for starting school in 2021.
A positive start to school includes:
- development of secures, respectful and reciprocal relationships
- conversations between children, teachers, families and the community
- high expectations and equity for every child
- recognition and acknowledgment of cultural diversity
- collaboration between early childhood services and schools
- building on knowledge, skills and interests of a child
- deep understanding of how young children learn.
My day at Kindergarten (video 4m 45s) shows what happens on a typical day in Kindergarten.
Orientation versus transition
A transition program is different to an orientation program. An orientation program helps children and families become familiar with the school. It comprises one or two visits to the school which provide information for children and families.
Transition processes take a much broader focus and are collaboratively planned and evaluated by all involved. Transition is most successful when the context from which children come is considered within the new context.
A transition program includes:
- a set of planned experiences or a process established over a longer period of time.
- information sessions and workshops for parents
- ongoing experiences for the children
Do I need a transition program?
A transition to school program provides support to children and their families as they prepare for school. Transitions are implemented to build reciprocal relationships between children, staff and families. Building on children's prior and current experiences helps them to feel secure, confident and connected to familiar people, places, events and understandings. Transitions assist children to understand the new routines, practices and expectations of the setting to which they are moving and help them to feel more confident and familiar with the process of change.
Reflection questions to consider:
- What does your school currently do to support transitions?
- How is your transition program supporting children, families and staff and/or what improvements could be made?
- Does your school need to make stronger connections with existing early childhood and community services?
- Does the data from the Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) confirm a level of vulnerability in your community?
- Is there a pattern of poor school attendance by some families? How could this be addressed through transition?
Successful transition models
Some successful models include:
- increasing the number of transition sessions by providing more experiences for parents and children to visit the school over a 6 month period.
- a playgroup based at the school which provides informal sessions for parents and children to attend together
- the Beginning School Well program where parents and children participate in a supported playgroup with mentors to support families.
- a weekly early literacy or numeracy program involving parents and children over two terms where parents and children attend a weekly session with a specific focus on literacy or numeracy
Please contact a transition adviser for more detailed information on each model.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders children
All school communities are unique. Teachers need to be culturally and sensitively aware when developing programs for Aboriginal students. Teachers must work with Aboriginal parents, caregivers, communities and the Aboriginal Education Consultative Group Inc. at all levels
The following sites explore what school readiness means for Indigenous children and can assist schools adopt a strength-based approach to facilitate transition.
- Starting school: a strength-based approach towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children
- School readiness: what does it mean for Indigenous children, families, schools and communities
- Be You includes resources about the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Children from a refugee background
Schools situated in refugee settlement areas need to be mindful of the impact of students' past experiences and of the current challenges these children so that resettlement is a positive and productive experience.
Beginning school well program
The Beginning School Well program is held in Terms 3 and 4 for approximately 6 weeks before the regular school transition. It provides a supportive introduction to the school and helps to facilitate participation in transition to school programs. It includes children, families, preschool and school staff and bilingual mentors from the community.
The program aims to:
- develop positive relationships between refugee children and their families, mentors and teachers.
enhance feelings of confidence and trust
- ensure refugee children feel safe, welcome and valued
- assist refugee children to develop positive social skills, attendance patterns, behaviours and dispositions for learning
- increase capacity of schools to support refugee families and their children.
Australian Early Development Census
The Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) data helps schools plan for the needs of children arriving at school. It can help schools identify areas where children and families in the community need additional support to achieve positive outcomes.
The AEDC is a measure of how children have developed by the time they start school in the areas of:
- physical health and wellbeing
- social competence
- emotional maturity
- language and cognitive skills
- communication skills and general knowledge
Continuity of learning
Preschools promote continuity of learning by building relationships and collaborating with children, families and schools. Transitions to preschool and then into school are important milestones in children's lives.
Strategies to enhance continuity of learning may include:
- regular visits into the school to take part in special events and spend time in a kindergarten classroom
- inviting kindergarten teachers to spend time in the preschool to build relationships with the children
- using picture books related to starting school to stimulate discussion about starting school
- opportunities for the children to ask questions and express their feelings related to starting school.
- orientation sessions focussed on learning about the school for children and their families.
Transition to school statement
The NSW Transition to school statement is a simple and practical tool that makes it easier for important information to be shared between families, early childhood services and schools. It summarises the child's strengths, interests, and approaches to learning and suggests ways these can be supported to continue learning and development into primary school. Completed statements enable Kindergarten teachers to get to know their students before they start school, make connections with children and families and respond to individual students' needs.
Good transition programs balance what and how children learn in their homes and in early childhood education with what and how they learn in primary school.
Transition programs impact a child's engagement with school, their wellbeing and ongoing learning trajectory. A transition to school program is developed in response to the needs of the children and parents within the local context.