Amplify’s series on school readiness around Australia showed how widely the states and territories still differ in their policies and practices around transitioning children to school. We can’t even agree on the name for the last years of early learning and the first year of school. Prep, reception, pre-primary, preschool, are just some of the terms for either the last year before school or the first year of school … and don’t get us going on the variations of usage for kindy/kinder/kindergarten!
But one thing our stories – and many more academic research endeavours – showed very clearly as a fundamental common issue is the lack of connection and communication between early years educators and school educators. This disconnect in the education sector can complicate what should be a smooth and happy time of change for young children and their families.
Sometimes, though, a story pops up about ‘being the change you want to see’.
Karen Bramley is the Educational Leader at Armidale Community Preschool. She recently organised a School Readiness Evening in collaboration with the Early Childhood Services in Armidale, and the Armidale Community of Schools. This is her story of how the event evolved – starting out with a professional disagreement and ending up with 100 people attending what may become an annual event.
Contradictions between educators
In 2017 I was selected to become Educational Leader at Armidale Community Preschool.
At my first Educational Leader meeting there was a discussion about school readiness, and the views of some of the educators didn’t line up with what I was taught or believed.
As this was my first meeting, while I spoke up I was cut off quickly. I decided it would be my mission to find out exactly what kindergarten teachers, parents and early childhood educators’ expectations were for children being ready for school.
Varied views from parents
When talking with parents the views were quite divided.
Families had different reasons for sending their child to preschool. For some it was a necessity due to work or study. For others, the main aim was to get their children ‘ready’ before school, either socially or learning to separate.
I found that it was only later in the year when children were closer to going to school that parents’ views for the reason their child was at preschool changed and they started to ask questions like When is my child going to write their name? or Should my child go to school next year?
Clear voice from schools
I called many local schools and spoke to a number of kindergarten teachers and principals.
A pattern soon emerged. They were all saying the same thing.
- Self-help skills, in all areas from personal hygiene to opening packets at lunch
- Looking after belongings
- Name recognition (not writing their name, but recognising it)
- How to care for resources
- Language skills to ask for help or have a conversation.
The list of basics that schools expected children to be equipped with went on.
We decided to hold a school readiness night at Armidale Community Preschool later in 2017, which was attended by some local school principals, teachers, educators and parents.
This night was successful and one of the school principals suggested that we hold one information night for all the community of schools, early education services and parents.
I put together a brief booklet, that parents and educators could refer to, to help with the school readiness questions. Then I began to organise our first school readiness night.
One night for all
In collaboration with Julie Crompton, the Principal of Drummond Public School and Community of school’s representative, we organised a night on 13 June 2018.
I applied for a grant to pay for the location at the Armidale Bowling Club, and then began the continuing collaboration with the region’s early childhood educators and the community of schools to make the night happen.
I organised pamphlets and a large banner made to advertise the night (see photo) and advertised the event with our local radio’s community announcements.
The night was very successful with around 100 people attending.
At the end of the night teachers, parents and early childhood educators were saying how great it was. I also got a lot of feedback from early childhood educators eager to participate if there was going to be another evening.
I think the night showed a need for all education services to share information and collaborate with each other to follow children through all the stages of education not just one separate parts labelled preschool, kindergarten, primary, secondary and so on.
We will continue to strive to build this connection and I believe we are on the right path to help children and parents succeed in the transition to school.