Thanks to all kinder families who joined in our school readiness online discussion.
Special thanks to our wonderfully informative speakers for their time and professional insight into school readiness.
Here is a summary for those who missed the event, or as a refresher to attendees.
– Paola, ANMK Kinder teacher
– Melanie, City of Darebin Preschool Field Officer
– Cathy Turner, Fairfield Primary School
– Tania Bennett, St Anthony’s Primary School
How is a child’s readiness for school assessed?
- Paola: The kinder assesses the child throughout the year, but particularly from term 2 onwards. We assess whether the child is emotionally, socially and intellectually ready to take this next step. We look at the child holistically in making this assessment.
- Melanie, Darebin Preschool field officer: We help families and the kinder come to a decision about school readiness and support a child’s transition to school. We work as part of a collective that brings together the school, kinder and the family. EG. The kinder might recommend a second kinder year for the child, and the family might not be able to accommodate that because of work commitments etc so the Field Officer then works with the school to accommodate the child’s needs, providing extra social and emotional support where necessary.
- Schools: The assessment is about social and emotional readiness. That assessment is really made by the kinder and they are best placed to do that as they know the child so well. However, schools can work with families if they are concerned about whether their child is ready. EG We could offer parents the chance to come to the school to observe a prep classroom in action for example.
- Sometimes we underestimate our preps and what they are capable of. EG. Covid situation for the preps this year has been an interesting example. They have blown us away with how they have handled it. Home is really the first learning point for children.
What are some indicators a child is ready for school vs. not so ready?
- Some of the things we might look at are whether a child can join into play, interact with other kids, explain what they need and when they are feeling upset, share with others.
- The child should be able to do some self-help tasks independently, self-regulate (to varying degrees), bounce back when something doesn’t go their way, negotiate in a situation of conflict with another child. However, they won’t succeed all the time!
- If they can’t do the above things or can’t successfully do them all the time, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are not ready for school at all, it may just mean that they might need a bit more support once they are there. EG. Perhaps they need a longer orientation program or some extra guidance from the teachers
- A total lack of flexibility in negotiating with peers might be an example that a child is not so ready but that’s not definitive
Are there downsides to a child doing a second year of 4 year old Kinder?
- Paola: There are no real downsides to this if you decide it is right for your child. We see some children really blossom during a second year and it is the perfect decision for them.
- One thing that may be harder for children who repeat would be that some children may notice that they are interacting with children that are a lot younger than them. However, that is not necessarily all bad.
How much does age impact school readiness, especially for Jan – April babies?
- This is a really common thing for parents to worry about but age should definitely not be the determining factor in your decision – there are much bigger things to consider than that. It really depends on the individual child.
- Remember that there are a big range of ages in every school classroom
- Think about the child’s maturity level, particularly in terms of emotional and social maturity. You could think ahead to the other end of school, EG the secondary school years and how being older or younger might impact their experience. That may help
Logistics of Term 1 for Preps (example at Fairfield PS)
- 1st day is a half day, 9 – 12.30 or 1pm. Often this takes place on a Friday which works well because the children have a chance to debrief with family and recuperate over the weekend after that first day
- The children and the parents are often very excited on day 1 and there is a lot of emotional energy that everyone brings with them to school. Day 2 there is not so much fuss.
- Staggered start time in the morning, one grade comes in at 9.10, 9.20, 9.30, 9.40. This gives each group a 10 minute settle in time and removes the huge congregation of children and parents at drop off which can be quite overwhelming.
- Staggered pick up times too
- For a month, the children have Wednesdays off. This works well for the children in terms of rest as school is pretty overwhelming in the beginning even if the child is ready. Transition to school is BIG. They have 2 days on, 1 day off, 2 days on. This is to ease children in slowly and make sure they settle in.
- After that first month, go to full time 9 – 3.30PM. Term 1 at school is about making friends, learning the rituals of school etc.
How does a child’s physical size and energy levels impact on school readiness?
- Not at all, every child is an individual and there is a huge range. This doesn’t have an impact. Every child will be tired at various points during the week and this can be accommodated and worked with
At home, what can we do/focus on to help get kids ready for school?
- Foster independence – EG. get your child to take part in packing their bag, preparing their own snacks for Kinder. Foster those self-help skills. If things like swimming and dancing lessons go back, get them to help you to pack their bags for those activities. Encourage them to think ahead – what do I need to take with me? Can you go and get your goggles, your bathers and put them in your bag for me please?
- Spend lots of quality time with your child and be present with them. Read with the child and discuss the stories with them like we do in group time at Kinder. Ask them what they feel about the story and why?
- Play games with them. Enjoy them. Do lots of talking. Play board games and let them lose sometimes so they learn how that feels and experience that. Do drawing and building activities
- Help the child to name their emotions and to be able to express their emotions. Empower them to ask for help when they need it – emotional literacy is a really positive thing.
- Helping kids understand that they grow from their mistakes, help them learn to persevere, build resilience and learn that skills come with time, not immediately
What if lockdown keeps going for a prolonged period, what are the contingencies plans?
- DET has some good resources on this. Melanie will send through a resource with some ideas.
Should we hold off on extra curricular classes during Prep?
- Less is more. Preps are exhausted in that first year at various times during the week and that will show up in different ways. Don’t be afraid to stop things you’ve started, EG don’t send them for the last few weeks of term if they are just really tired.
- This does really depend on the individual child but keep in mind that they do need a lot of time to decompress, review their day in their own mind, and just be. They will need time to relax and process the things that have happened during the day and might then feel more able to chat about it once they have done that
How important is the ability to write their name, literacy, numeracy in terms of school readiness?
- Paola: These skills don’t have to be concrete. IE don’t worry if they can’t sit down and write their name perfectly or do a great drawing. It may be that they express themselves through music. They may show their literacy skills by exploring books, singing and doing actions. Could be incidental things. Happy to create a list of books that might be useful for kids to read at home about school. Some of these we read at Kinder.
- Cathy, Fairfield PS: Curiosity to learn is what’s most important in early literacy. EG Things like asking “What are these letters? What’s happening in this book?” tells us more than knowing the letters of the alphabet. There is a huge spectrum here – from children who can only recognise a couple of letters of the alphabet right through to those who can read and everything in between. Literacy and numeracy becomes embedded in their day and we teach them those skills at school. This isn’t something for parents to worry about too much.
- Tania, St Anthony’s: Oral language, vocabulary, reading a story and chatting about it – these are all great things. A lot of this happens through play and certainly doesn’t have to be holding a pen and writing. It can be building or doing a jigsaw puzzle.
- Don’t worry about formal teaching at home. We want curiosity, a desire to learn and a child to show their inquisitive nature. The rest will come when it’s time so we don’t want to put pressure on the child or the parents. It is a spectrum and children meet those benchmarks at different stages.
How much should we talk about school, balancing the need to get them used to the idea but not make them anxious?
- Don’t make too much fuss about it because we don’t want to raise expectations about it too much. In Term 4, the children start to think about school themselves and they might have their first visit to school. Then they start to imagine what it will be like.