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Around Australia series: approaches to school transition. Victoria!

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Victoria Transition to School

Our Around Australia series moves on this week, shifting south from NSW to Victoria.

The series looks at what’s making news in school transitions in every state and territory and identifies opportunities to learn from each other about what is and isn’t working in each jurisdiction.

Greater insight into effective transitions

In 2015 the Victorian Department commissioned a series of consultations from stakeholders to strengthen the understanding of current transition approaches.

The outcome of the consultations was that the transition to school is largely a positive one. It did however identify some areas of improvement:

  • Further resources to support children from diverse backgrounds and those experiencing disadvantage
  • Strengthening communication between early childhood educators and school teachers
  • Improvements on the Transition Statement
  • Better evaluation of local approaches and outcomes

The full report can be downloaded here.

The consultation report leading to Victoria’s latest reforms

Online transition statements

Victorian children begin Prep – the first year of school – if they turn five by April 30 that year, the same as the ACT and South Australia (see national table at the end of this article).

So what’s new in school transition this year in Vic? The adoption of online transition statements for all children in funded early childhood centres, based on five standardised, but editable, learning descriptors. Click on the following links to see the language of the numerous descriptors under each outcome.

  1. Identity
  2. Community
  3. Wellbeing
  4. Learning
  5. Communication

This type of Transition Learning and Development Statements were introduced in Victoria ahead of other Australian states and territories, back in 2009. After its review of the effectiveness of the statements, the Department of Education and Training commissioned Deakin University this year to deliver a substantial professional learning program (PLP) to improve use of the statements by both early childhood and school educators.

The PLP, including face to face workshops for around 6000 educators, also introduces the new online version of the statements that is being implemented from Term 3 for every funded kindergarten in Victoria.

‘I’ve been in sessions this year where you can see the early years educators feeling really validated as teachers.’

Liz Rouse, Deakin University

According to the PLP Project Director from Deakin, Dr Liz Rouse, one of the advantages of the online statement is the ease with which early childhood teachers can put them together.  A paper based statement will still be available, particularly while technical issues are ironed out in the first few months, but the process of ‘select and edit’ from lists of standard outcome descriptors and learning programs is expected to bear fruit in a number of ways.

Sample of the VEYLDF Outcome Descriptors (link to original)
Sample of the VEYLDF Outcome Descriptors (link to original)

‘Most important, I think, is the greater understanding and shared meaning that the new statements create,’ Liz told Amplify.

‘Back when we first introduced statements from 2009 onwards, there was a lot of confusion and it was often like we weren’t even speaking the same language.

‘The EYLF was relatively new and so were the VELS – Victorian Early Learning Statements – and it was like trying to overlay a framework on a curriculum and the language of school curriculum, which was very much about numeracy and literacy.

‘So it was complicated, and in the context of all the change that was going on in both schools and early learning around that time, many people felt it was ‘just another job’ – and one they weren’t strongly supported in, either.’

This time around, says Liz, both school and early childhood teaching staff are closer to shared meaning. In fact, during PLP sessions where the five outcome descriptors are discussed, early childhood teachers are sometimes surprised to find that their understanding of the ‘whole child’ is a relatively new concept to their school colleagues and one that the middle years teachers are eager to learn more about.

‘Our school teachers have been very data driven around literacy and numeracy results,’ Liz says.

‘That pressure is still there but they are also being drawn to a more individual approach to each child and to look at their broader development and social-emotional skills, not just maths, reading and writing.

‘I’ve been in sessions this year where you can see the early years educators feeling really validated as teachers.

‘There are comments like ‘you do amazing teaching strategies’ from school staff to kindergarten staff, and, in the very best sessions, a really strong professional bonding that was definitely not present the first time we introduced transition statements.’

Making information sharing easier

The PLP observations reflect comments recorded by the Positive Start review

“Visiting kindergartens as a [school] teacher has allowed me to be more accepting of children’s different learning styles and the importance of play based learning. Not all kids need to be sitting on a mat to be listening or learning” (Moonee Valley).

“Something that is different is the networks that have been created. Since the Transition Statements we [ECEC] are more able to talk to families and schools. Prior to the Transition Statements we didn’t have permission to talk to schools. They have allowed us to talk to families, in relation to passing on more information. We have more three-way discussions between kinder, families and Prep teachers. There is a more coordinated approach. There is greater communication and stronger relationships. The gap between prior to school and school is closing. We feel more comfortable to meet, talk and share on a more professional level. We are now using the same language” (Warrnambool).

The Department of Education and Training is working towards hosting the online transition statement on its Insight Assessment Platform from 2018.

The Insight Assessment Platform

The Platform is the new home for the Department’s collection of online assessment instruments. With the Online Transition Learning and Development Statement (Online TLDS) being just one of six assessment instruments available.

It was piloted with over 250 Victorian schools in 2016 and is now available to government schools from this year.

While schools are becoming familiar with the platform it is new for early childhood educators, however it means that schools are more likely to make full use of the transition statements prepared by early years teachers because the statements can now be linked to the individual school record for the child. This record follows the child from school to school.

The Department have completed a privacy impact assessment to ensure the Transition Statement process complies with privacy laws.

They advised us that parents should discuss any concerns they may have with their early childhood teacher including the option of opting-out of sharing their child’s statement with their school or having their child’s information stored on Insight platform.

Dr Liz Rouse, Deakin University

Liz Rouse says that, just like other parts of Australia, some Victorian parents want their children to start school with a ‘clean slate’.

‘Even though some of the transition information might relate to developmental issues and could be extremely helpful to the child’s new school teacher, some parents will not want that shared,’ Liz says.

‘Having the statement in a new format, with better information and an easier online connection won’t change the rights parents have to say they don’t want it shared with the school.’

The Platform is specific to government schools, Transition Statements can be manually shared with Catholic and Independent schools as well as OSHC services. The online tool has been designed with features to help early childhood educators complete the Statement, which they can then print to pass on to non-government schools.

Your Guide to the Online TLDS

The Department has created a short video to explain the changes to the Statement and a comprehensive Resources Kit that is designed to provide guidance to early childhood educators on the transition process

 

The view from the Department of Education and Training

Research and feedback shows that building relationships and sharing information between early childhood services and schools can greatly help a successful transition to school, helping children and their families feel safe and connected to the different people and environment of a new school.

Victoria’s Transition: A Positive Start to School initiative has led the way since in 2009 and was further improved this year following consultation with early childhood and schools professionals, children and families, and experts.

There has been a great response to the 120 workshops we have held so far with Deakin University, with the majority of those involved telling us they are now creating or strengthening relationships between early childhood services and local schools to support better transitions from kindergarten to school.

In consultation with educators and teachers, we have now designed a new Transition Statement for 2017 and are working on hosting it on the Insight Assessment Platform from 2018.

These improvements will further support the great work being done to support transition to school by helping early childhood services and local schools share relevant information about children as they start Prep, including tools and resources so teachers can plan for children entering their classes before they start.

Tools to help early childhood educators complete Transition Statements are expected to available soon through the Insight platform, including video and online guides.

We have completed a privacy impact assessment to ensure the Transition Statement process complies with privacy laws, and parents should discuss any concerns they may have with their early childhood teacher including the option of opting-out of sharing their child’s statement with their school or having their child’s information stored on Insight platform.

 

School starting ages in Australia

(Source:Kidspot)

NSW

Kindergarten/Kindy – can start in first term if turning five by July 31 that year.

Victoria

Prep – can start in first term if turning five by April 30 that year.

Queensland

Prep – children must be five by 30 June in the year they enrol.

Queensland also has approved kindergarten programs designed to help to prepare children for the Prep year. These are not compulsory and are generally offered by kindergarten and long day care services. Children must be at least 4 by 30 June in the year they attend the program.

WA

Pre-primary – can start in first term if turning five by June 30 that year. Pre-Primary begins at the age of four or five (as long as the child with turn five by June 30 of that year).

SA

Reception – can start in first term if turning five by April 30 that year.

Tasmania

Prep – must be five by January 1 of the school year. In Tasmania you may enrol your child in Kindergarten if that child turns four on or before January 1 in the year they start. A child that turns five on or before the January 1 must start school that year. Children will start in the Preparatory Year.

ACT

Kindergarten – can start in first term if turning five by April 30 that year.

NT

Transition – can start in first term if turning five by June 30 that year.

In NSW, Victoria, WA and ACT children can start well before their fifth birthday or parents can decide to start them the following year after they turn five. Home schooling is a legal option in Australia, provided parents comply with their state laws. Home schooling offers parents and guardians an alternative to state or private schooling. Parents take on the primary responsibility for their child’s education.

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3 thoughts on “Around Australia series: approaches to school transition. Victoria!

  1. Thank-you for this very informative piece on recent developments in relation transition to school in Victoria. It is very pleasing to see prior to school and school educators coming together in a professional learning program in relation to transition. It is these types of practices, more than written transition documents themselves, that build relationships between educators and thereby support children. There are many challenges with the exchange of written documentation between prior to school services and schools that remain and some of them are raised in a forthcoming article in the Australian Journal of Early Childhood. This may be of interest.

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