September lead story

Successful partnerships to support early years transitions

two women sitting at a table in a child care centre smiling behind them are flowery wall hangings and a woman and a child sitting on the floor

L to R: Felicity Curnow, Junior School Leader & Foundation teacher, Woori Yallock Primary School,
with Adel Novak, Early Childhood Teacher at the Woori Yallock Kindergarten

Across Victoria kindergarten and school teachers are working together to support children and families as they transition into primary school. Ongoing communication between educators improves professional relationships and contributes to curriculum or pedagogical refinements, better supporting continuity of learning and transition. When teams work together, successful partnerships build 'relational agency' through common language and awareness of the skills of others. Foundation teachers also get to know each child and family before they start school.

Simone Ramage, Kindergarten Teacher at Casey Childcare Centre and Kindergarten in Cranbourne, attended one of the Term 2 Transition to school workshops, facilitated by Deakin University in partnership with the Department of Education and Training. The workshop aligned with, and strengthened, her professional philosophy about supporting transitions. Simone organised an information evening for families, where they could ask questions about school and how to support their children through the transitions. Two local schools in the Cranbourne and Narre Warren area agreed to participate. Simone described this collaborative approach as 'necessary and valued' by teachers, educators and families.

'Kindergarten is child-centred in approach, whereas school is more structured, so it's important to give families information on how to support their child's social and emotional readiness – by talking with their child about going through different experiences in life, and how school is another one of these, and that's why there is orientation – and developing independence. These are more important than the ability to read or write,' says Simone. 'But families also need support – they can experience anxiety, and being able to ask questions and feel supported by other families in the kindergarten and school communities really helps.'

A Yarra Valley primary school principal is leading the way with the transition from kindergarten to school. Oliver Thockloth came up with 'the plan' after joining a Linking Learning group in his area. 'Regular network meetings had helped to strengthen the relationship between Woori Yallock Primary School and Woori Yallock Kindergarten over the past few years. However, the pedagogical approach in the early years is different from that of primary school, potentially impacting on the continuum of learning that children need for a smooth transition to school. The network devised a reciprocal teaching program that would enable teachers to 'visit each other's environment, plan together and teach together', explains Oliver.

In Term 3, the foundation teacher works four days at the kindergarten, meeting the children and getting to know their strengths and challenges, and in the following Term 1, the kindergarten teacher co-teaches the same group as foundation students. Older students also film a 'buddy statement' at the end of Term 4, which is sent to their new foundation buddy, so they can feel familiar with their new environment before they start. 'We feel that families will feel comfortable with the school environment from day one, and this will help support the new foundation students as well. We plan to measure the effect of the transition plan by undertaking foundation assessments in Term 1,' said Oliver.

The Transition: A Positive Start to School Resource Kit has practical guidance for early childhood professionals working with children and families during the transition to school process. Information about Transition to School workshops in Term 4 is available on the Deakin University website. The DET website has more information on the Supporting Reciprocal Visits project.

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