Knowing what to expect in the school environment helps children to make a smooth transition and preparing children for this begins well before their first day of school. Success is more likely when key stakeholders, including children, families, educators, teachers and relevant community representatives work and plan this transition collaboratively. Researchers have also identified that children’s initial social and academic successes at school can be crucial to their future progress.
The Early Years Learning Framework and the National Quality Standard (NQS) recognise the importance of transitions and embedding continuity of learning as a key principle. This is acknowledged in element 6.3.2 of the NQS which requires that continuity of learning and transitions for each child are supported by sharing relevant information and clarifying responsibilities. The notion of supporting children in their transitions is woven throughout the NQS. For example, recognising the importance of supporting children to feel secure, confident and included (5.1.3), building relationships and engaging with the local community (6.3.4) and families (6.2.1), and linking with community and support agencies (6.3.1), to name a few.
The Early Years Learning Framework (p. 16) reminds us of the importance of ensuring children have an active role in preparing for the transition and building on children’s prior and current experiences to ‘help them to feel secure, confident and connected to familiar people, places, events… understand the traditions, routines and practices of the settings to which they are moving and to feel comfortable with the process of change’.
It is widely acknowledged that effective transitions require collaboration between early childhood programs, schools, families and other relevant professionals. Increasingly, we are moving away from the notion of school readiness, instead working collaboratively to ensure the transition to school is smooth and children have every opportunity to settle into their new environments and succeed. Many researchers acknowledge that children’s adjustment to school is not simply about a child’s specific skill set, but is shaped by the relationships and interconnections formed between key stakeholders (such as teachers, educators, families and health professionals).
ACECQA recently heard from principals from two schools in regional Queensland (Charleville State School and Newtown State School) who are working collaboratively to build partnerships and networks with families, health services, early childhood services, schools and the broader community as part of the Great Start, Great Futures project. The project draws on data from sources such as the Australian Early Development Index (AEDI), brain research and ecological, educational and developmental theories. It has reframed the idea of school readiness to ensure schools are ready, welcoming and engaging and children are ready for sustained school success.
So how can early childhood education and care services help support children’s positive transition to school?
Building respectful, positive and collaborative relationships with families, schools and community services is a good place to start. The Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development’s Transition: A Positive Start to School Resource Kit reminds us that all children are different and effective transition-to-school programs recognise and respect these differences. It also emphasises the importance of involving and listening to children ‘because:
- it acknowledges their right to be listened to and for their views and experiences to be taken seriously
- it can make a difference to our understanding of children’s priorities, interests and concerns
- it can make a difference to our understanding of how children feel about themselves
- listening is a vital part of establishing respectful relationships with the children we work with and is central to the learning process
- involving children in transition planning can trigger early childhood educators and Prep teachers to think about how routines and activities can be improved’.
Parents and early childhood professionals can work together to prepare children to understand the change in environment, including providing clarity around what they might expect to see and do, what they will learn about, routines, practices and structures of the school setting. Together, parents and educators can provide consistent messages in preparing children for their transition and reduce anxiety.
Partnerships between the education and care service, community child health services and the school are equally important in supporting children’s continuity of learning, security and healthy development. When information is shared with new educators and other professionals about each child’s current development, knowledge, skills and understandings, continuity for children is enhanced.
The service’s philosophy, policies and procedures should also guide approaches and practices that promote positive transitions and support children to build on their previous experiences to embrace the changes and challenges of the new school environment.
There are a number of resources to assist in developing policies and practices that support effective transitions.
For example, Community Child Care Co-operative NSW has developed a Transition to School Example Policy which you may find helpful.
The Transition: A Positive Start to School Resource Kit (Department of Education and Early Childhood Development Victoria) is relevant for long day care, family day care, occasional care, playgroups, OSHC, early childhood intervention services, kindergartens and schools.
Ready Together-Transition to School Program, produced by Communities for Children (Inala to Ipswich) and the Crèche and Kindergarten Association (C&K), includes resources which provide support, tips and suggestions to support families and early childhood professionals in preparing children for school.
The new NSW transition to School Statement is a practical tool designed to make it easier for information to be shared between families, early childhood services and schools. Use of the statement is optional and is completed by the child’s early childhood educator in cooperation with the family, before being communicated to the intended school.
Other resources include:
- Continuity of learning: A resource to support effective transition to school and school age care – https://docs.education.gov.au/node/36597
- Linking Schools and Early Years – http://www.rch.org.au/lsey/
- Illawarra Transition to School Program – http://transitiontoschool.com.au/
- International Journal of Transitions in Childhood –
- School Readiness. Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth-
- Transitions: between groups, settings and beyond. Early Childhood Australia-
 Hirst, M., Jervis, N., Visagie, K., Sojo, V. & Cavanagh, S. (2011) Transition to primary school: A review of the literature. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia, page 5.
 Fabian, H & Dunlop, A-W. (2006). Outcomes of Good Practice in Transition Process for Children Entering Primary School. Paper commissioned for the EFA Global Monitoring Report 2007, Strong Foundations: Early Childhood Care and Education. UNESCO
 Hirst, M., Jervis, N., Visagie, K., Sojo, V. & Cavanagh, S. (2011) A review of the literature. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia, page 12
 Transition: A Positive Start to School Resource Kit, Department of Education and Early Childhood Development Victoria.http://www.education.vic.gov.au/childhood/professionals/learning/Pages/transkit.aspx
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