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Ready for school

Kate Barber talks with Jane Burke from BestStart about what it means to be ‘ready for school’, and how parents and teachers can best support children for this transition.

Early Childhood Education & Te Whariki Te Whariki, the New Zealand curriculum for Early Childhood Education (ECE), is founded on the following aspirations for children: ‘to grow up as competent and confident learners and communicators, healthy in mind, body, and spirit, secure in their sense of belonging and in the knowledge that they make a valued contribution to society.’

These aspirations underpin not only the ECE curriculum, but the transition for children as they move onto school, explains Jane. Assessing a child’s readiness for school, then, involves considering their development more holistically against these aspirations. After all, a child’s ‘confidence’ and ‘sense of belonging’ are fundamental when it comes to them feeling secure in their new environment, developing trusting relationships and establishing positive dispositions around themselves as a learner.

Jane explains that it is vital that children have plenty of opportunities to: form friendships; play and explore; be courageous and try new things; learn about words, numbers and how things work; ask questions and have a say; and learn to relate well to others. ‘A curriculum that follows children’s interests, while offering opportunities for them to negotiate, compromise, share toys and share feelings will not only prepare children for school, but set them up for a life of learning.’

As Jane says, literacy and numeracy experiences need to be meaningful and engaging, and woven into children’s play. ‘For example, for the child who loves playing in the sandpit, teachers can bring the learning to the sand, introducing maths concepts such as measuring, and literacy experiences like writing a list of equipment needed to build the city.’ In the same way, parents can seize learning opportunities as they arise – identifying the numbers on letterboxes or reading out street signs when out for a walk, for example. Jane is quick to remind parents that ‘children develop at different rates and schools accept children as they are’.

When it comes to starting school, a child’s ability to selfregulate and to manage practical aspects of their day are really important, says Jane. ‘Although taking off your jersey “all by yourself” seems like such a simple thing, being able to manage practical aspects of their day is incredibly empowering for children, and when they are empowered, they are building confidence – which leads to a settled transition.’

Growing our child’s sense of belonging in a new environment is crucial. ‘Discuss your child’s transition and any worries with your ECE teacher, and visit with your child’s key teacher at school. Take in a copy of your child’s portfolio, which is the record of your children’s learning, and talk with the teacher about their interests, strengths and learning.’ Jane also reminds parents that ‘your child will pick up on your anxiety, and the language you use will set the tone. The key is to be positive, supportive and enthusiastic.’

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