‘As an early childhood and primary teacher, I enjoy working with children of all ages. In this chapter of my career, I find myself gaining behind-the-scenes insight into the primary school environment that the preschoolers I used to teach now experience’, writes Virginia Artinian.
I work as a classroom teacher in a school of almost 1000 students, 85 per cent of whom come from language backgrounds other than English. I hope this article gives you, the reader, insight and encouragement about how highly primary teachers regard the wellbeing and positive adjustment of every child as they transition to school, and the various opportunities families and early childhood educators have to connect with schools.
In my experience, staff in schools work to enable children to foster a strong sense of connection to their community, not only on the first day of kindergarten, but throughout their whole primary school experience. It is a team effort where everyone, from the students to the principal, has a part to play. Office staff are the first point of contact that families have as they enrol their children and this usually happens around Term 3 of the preceding year. It’s always best to check, as an individual school’s expectations can vary.
In general, children and their families attend transition programs in the year prior to kindergarten, which are tailored according to the needs of individual communities. We currently invite families to three sessions in Term 4, and research states that higher attendance at transition sessions correlates with more positive adjustment for students (Margetts, 2002). Children attend play sessions where kindergarten teachers build relationships and carefully observe how they play and interact to inform some of their decisions for the following year. This supports continuity with children’s play-based learning experiences in early childhood settings.
Concurrently, parents attend seminars on topics such as how the school system works, as well as literacy and numeracy. As most parents in our school community attended school overseas, communication sessions like this are invaluable in clarifying expectations and answering their questions. We draw upon interpreters and the local Community Liaison Officer to bridge cultural and language barriers and focus especially on fostering families’ involvement and collaboration in their child’s education. These sessions are also excellent times for parents to communicate with the kindergarten staff and raise any specific concerns they may have for their child.
School teachers and early childhood educators can connect through centre visits, school tours and meetings, as communication is important for more effective transitions (Margetts, 2002).
The school year begins and kindergarten teachers are a rare find in the staffroom during Term 1, as they work tirelessly to ensure the best possible transition for each child and family, both in the classroom and on the playground. This is coupled by support from executive and support staff, student buddies and other systems that help students build a strong sense of connection.
Families, early childhood educators and school staff all play pivotal roles in supporting and empowering children of all ages as they transition to school. Communication by everyone involved makes a significant difference in the adjustment process, and families and early childhood educators should feel confident that schools will build upon the strong foundations laid in early childhood.
Margetts, K. (2002). Transition to school—Complexity and diversity. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 10(2), 103–114. https://doi. org/10.1080/13502930285208981
Essential tips for parents and carers offers over 60 pages of practical and useful everyday advice to help parents and new students handle a year of changes and challenges.