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All children arrive at primary school with knowledge and experiences from growing up within the context of family, neighbourhood, service and community environments. Traditional concepts of school readiness have placed emphasis on a child's skills; however, skill-based assessments of children's functioning have been shown to be poor predictors of subsequent school adjustment and achievement (La Paro & Pianta, 2001; Pianta & La Paro, 2003). More recent thinking about the transition to school recognises that "school readiness does not reside solely in the child, but reflects the environments in which children find themselves" (Kagan & Rigby, 2003, p. 13).
(Sayers, M et al Starting school: A pivotal life transition for children and their families Family Matters 2012 No. 90 p45)
Teachers play an important role in this community-wide approach to children’s transition to school.
Research and feedback from parents, carers and professionals across NSW, has identified some useful practices and potential barriers in the transition to school.
Practice elements for teachers in schools to enhance successful transition to school include:
“I think early intervention is so critical but we need to partner. Linking with parents and having a partnership with outside agencies is essential. Schools are limited in their capacity, so they need to work in with others and link parents to outside agencies and support networks.”
Assistant Principal in a regional school
There is a great deal of research which recognises the benefits of inclusive education. With appropriate planning and support for teachers, there is potential for typically developing children and children with disabilities as well as teachers, to benefit from inclusive practices.
Benefits of inclusion
For all children:
For typically developing children:
For children with disabilities:
Ref: Cologon, K. (2013) Inclusion in Education: towards equality for students with disability Children and Families Research Centre Institute of Early Childhood, Macquarie University
"It really was the support of the professionals we had involved that made the transition go smoothly. I really got the feeling at the orientation that the teachers “got it” and the school was accessible. I just had a level of confidence in them.”
David, father of Patrick
What do parents find helpful?
The "Snapshot of my child" document can be a useful way of assisting families to share their knowledge of their child's strengths and needs with their child's new teacher.
Interviews with teachers have identified helpful transition practices including:
Teachers in schools should not feel they need to have all the answers, nor that they need to work out what will meet each child’s educational needs on their own. While teachers are experts in curriculum, parents are experts on their child, and the best outcomes come from working collaboratively.
Most students who have identified disabilities prior to starting school will have ECI professional/s involved. Speak to the family about who they have in their support team for their child, and whether they may be able to provide any assistance.
Within your school and education system, there are specialist staff who are able to work with you to build your capacity to adapt and adjust programming and teaching to support learning for children with additional needs.
Specific assistance may be available from the following professionals:
Click here for information about research around effective transition practices for families from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds.
When working with families, ask yourself:
When working in partnership, ask yourself:
Starting school is an important milestone in any child and family’s life. For families of children with developmental delay or disability, transition to school requires additional thought, time, planning and support to make the process as smooth and as positive as possible.