A child’s first transition to school is one of the biggest milestones of their life and needs to be approached with thought and compassion. Currently across New Zealand, new entrants to our school start their first day as decided by their parents, normally shortly after their 5th birthday. This can mean that a new entrant teacher can potentially have a new child every day. While this has certainly become the cultural norm, I believe we are doing our new entrants a disservice by not having a more structured transition for them, their parents and for our new entrant teachers.
Following on from the consultation we had with our ECE partners in 2015, we have preferred entry points for our new entrants, at Week 1 and Week 5 of every term.
Students would begin school at their parents discretion, either at Week 1 OR Week 5.
If a student turns 5 in week 3, we would like them to begin in Week 5. Or if their parents feel they need a slightly longer transition time/school visits they would start at Week 1 of the following term.
Students would be welcome to attend as many school visits as they choose, in line with the specific dates set by the school. To be clear, that would mean that if a parent decided to delay their child’s entry to school until they were 6 years old, they would be welcome to attend all of the school visits for the year prior to this.
We continue to have a set day for school visits, with a set programme in place. (Wednesdays, 8.45-10.00)
Many ECE centres have a transition to school or school readiness programme - but what does being ready for school mean?
“Essentially, school readiness means that children should be able to manage themselves appropriately in the school environment. Ideally, a Year 0 student should be able to listen carefully to stories, follow instructions, sit quietly on the mat, raise hand to ask a question, put on shoes and jersey, put bag away, wash hands, sit and eat food at break times, pack bag and carry it, and so on.” (Educationreview.co.nz)
For us, the above would be ideal. While it would be advantageous to know how to write your name (or recognise it written) know basic colours and shapes and letter/sounds of the alphabet, it is certainly not essential. Every child is unique and different. Not all children are ready to read and write immediately. Some children come to school having been able to read and write for some time. It is our job to look at the child and their unique skills and help them to move forward from that point, as they are ready.
“Children’s sensory and physical development affects their ability to remember what they see, hear and do. Therefore it affects their ability to learn and achieve. Think of your child’s brain as a ‘bucket’ with holes in it – if these holes are not plugged then formal learning can be lost. The plugs are the Foundation Skills for Formal Learning. Therefore these skills are the ‘plugs’ that fill the holes in the bucket! In our bucket we have Reading, Writing and Maths at the top. However, if we focus entirely on these skills at the top of the bucket the holes in the lower areas will undermine our efforts. To achieve in the classroom a child needs to be physically and developmentally ready. This in turn will have an effect on a child’s ability to be able to remember what they see, hear and do. We need to make sure that children have the Foundation Skills to be ready for formal learning.” (Parkland.school.nz)
Our Foundation class for new entrants into our school will be based around the principle of creating a safe, nurturing transition from ECE or home for our young students. We will not expect them to come to us with the holes in their buckets already full - we will adapt our environment and our programme to ensure the holes are plugged to ensure a smooth pathway towards formal learning is created.
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