Traditionally school readiness was largely determined by the child’s age or skill set.  As a result of current research the focus has shifted to the importance of relationships and the early years of child development.  It is recognised that a child’s readiness for school be considered within the broader context i.e. is everybody ‘school ready’- the child, the family, the school, the community and other services?

Transition programs need to be diverse and flexible to meet the needs of the child, family, early childhood service, school and community.

Guidelines for developing effective transition programs

Dockett, Perry and Howard (2000) have developed guidelines to provide a framework for developing and evaluating effective transition programs.

Establish positive relationships between the children, parents and educators

Gather information on a regular basis through enrolment, meetings and informal discussions to develop collaborative partnerships and promote continuity and shared understanding.

Arrange informal gatherings for families whose children will be going to the same school (e.g. play dates and morning teas to establish familiar support networks).

Introduce “buddy” programs for the children and/or families as well as mentoring opportunities between educators to utilise skills, knowledge and experience.

Facilitate each child’s development as a capable learner

Ensure information about the child’s growth, development and learning that has occurred in the early years is shared amongst families and educators in prior to school settings and schools through varied methods of communication such as: the Transition to School Statement, enrolment process and at case meetings) in order to ensure appropriate supports and practices are available.

In order to build on children’s experiences get to know the children and their families through informal gatherings and invitations to share aspects of family life and culture.

Differentiate between “orientation to school” and “transition to school” programs

Orientation to school should be considered as one element of the overall transition to school program.  Ideally, a transition to school program is ongoing and should not be limited to the year before school. Programs should vary according to the needs of the local community.  Consider the needs of the families (cultural considerations, working families, family structure) and the timing of events.

Draw upon dedicated funding and resources

A range of resources are required when planning for effective transition including; people, time, materials and space e.g. for a dedicated playgroup within a school, sufficient space and a co-ordinator would be desirable.

Ensure your expectations are realistic.  Develop close networks and consider combining networks with other educational settings.

Involve a range of stakeholders

In addition to involving educators, families and children in the process consider the input from members of the broader community (local elders in the community, out of school hour’s care (OSHC) educators, school support clerical staff, therapists, case workers, OSHC bus drivers, and the school librarian).  These members of the broader community can provide valuable input and ensure a consistent and holistic approach.

Plan well and evaluate effectively

Planning for an effective transition program requires clearly defined and realistic objectives that have been developed in collaboration with all stakeholders.  Planning and evaluation should be conducted regularly and can take many forms e.g. child feedback, parent surveys and comments, teacher’s observations.

Flexible and responsive

Transition programs should be dynamic in order to meet the needs of various stakeholders, providing opportunities for them to contribute and be involved in a variety of ways.  The transition program should be based on current research, national frameworks, curriculums and the service’s educational philosophy.

Based on mutual trust and respect

Trust and respect are conveyed in many ways.  It is imperative that stakeholders develop a relationship of mutual trust and respect e.g. through attendance at meetings in each setting, invitation to attend information nights or shared professional development opportunities.  It is equally important that each person’s perspective is considered and respected as a valuable contribution e.g. an early childhood education and care service providing a family with documentation about learning through play, based on the Early Years Learning Framework.

Rely on reciprocal communication amongst all stakeholders

Effective transition programs rely on open two-way communication e.g. recognising that parents as well as educators know a great deal about the children in their care as do children know a lot about themselves.  Consider your ethical and legal obligations when sharing information.

Take into account contextual aspects of community and of individual families and children within that community

It is important that diversity is reflected in the transition program.  Children and their families are influenced by issues such as socio economic status, cultural diversity, disability and geographical isolation.  It is important that differences among individuals are recognised and valued.

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