Nothing can replace face to face
Explore & Develop Breakfast Point is tucked away in a newly built estate with many amenities close by, such as grocery stores, restaurants, parks and schools. At the beginning of 2017, the local school (St Patrick’s) at Mortlake opened its doors, just minutes from our centre’s gate. Many of our preschool children from 2016 chose this local primary school for their future education, and so naturally we were eager to find out more ourselves.
As the Educational Leader of the service I first contacted the school’s Principal in late February, to invite her to speak at our annual Transition to School information evening for families. We had sent through our discussion notes and she replied with specific information she would like to speak to families about. Through these emails, we quickly realised that our vision and philosophy on Early Childhood Education and Care (particularly in relation to children’s transition to school), were aligned and our relationship quickly began to flourish. Our information night was a huge success, with Mrs Westgate identifying school recommendations and requirements and providing families with opportunities to ask questions, voice their concerns as well as discuss their child’s readiness for school.
It is also at this point it became very apparent that there was a piece missing in our ‘Transition to School Program’. We felt we had a well implemented Transition to School program where our team of educators work together with families and the children in ensuring each child’s transition to school is as smooth as possible and ensuring each child has the important skills to help them enter school as confident, capable and involved learners.
The missing piece was having stronger links between our service and a school setting. Building a relationship and collaborating with the local school would contribute to promoting positive outcomes for children in their transition to school.
Conversations continued between our service and the local Primary school over the following months and together we planned visits to the school for our preschool children to extend on our transition to school process. The benefits for both groups seemed incredible, and an opportunity we did not want to pass up.
Face to face at big school
In small groups of 10, preschool children walked just 5 minutes down the road and into the school grounds before being greeted by the Principal, teachers and students of St Patricks. We joined in with the Kindergarten reading sessions and explored their classrooms, bathroom facilities, outdoor environments and new resources.
At first our pre-schoolers seemed quite reserved, entering an unfamiliar space the children were cautious and some, feeling a little overwhelmed. As the visits continued so did their confidence, and they soon realised that ‘big school’ was a fun and enjoyable place for them to further their learning and meet new people.
These regular visits provided children with a sense of belonging to their community and although not all of them will be attending this specific school it gave them an opportunity to familiarise themselves with a school’s routine and build up their confidence when walking into a new environment.
Two way benefit
These visits also supported our educators in deepening their understanding of school based learning environments and practices and vice versa. Having opportunities to discuss with school teachers about our pedagogical practices e.g. play based program, the incorporation of children’s interests into the curriculum we believed would contribute to a child’s positive transition to school. We are looking forward to inviting some of the school teachers to our service. Understanding each other’s curriculum and planning will only help us to work together better and to develop effective transitions and support continuity of children’s learning.
Regular discussions with families, educators and children took place before, during and after visits and their responses often reflected the children’s next visit to ensure they felt safe, secure and supported on these mini excursions and to better prepare them for life beyond Explore & Develop Breakfast Point.
Parent support and inclusion
In preparation for the school visits, our parents were emailed an ongoing excursion form sharing specific information about these regular school visits, including location, the types of experiences/ benefits for children, the distance from the service and how the children and educators will get there. The families were also provided with detailed risk assessments which were constructed by the team to ensure all areas were being looked at and any potential risks were identified. The families then returned the permission slips and the groups of 10 children were formed. The service ensured visits took place on Mondays, Wednesdays and Friday’s to guarantee all preschool children had an opportunity to attend.
Once the risk assessments were complete the educators brainstormed with the children about ways to remain safe in these new environments. It was a great opportunity to speak to children about road safety, manners, and respect for other people’s resources and gain an understanding of their perspective whilst problem solving as a large group.
Our relationship with St Patrick’s continues to grow and through these visits the children are gaining more knowledge about what school entails and what they can expect when making the transition to ‘big school’.
Meet the author
Rebecca Raymond is the Educational Leader of Explore & Develop Breakfast Point and has more than a decade's experience as a professional educator. The Breakfast Point centre philosophy holds that the transition to school process begins in the infant and toddler classrooms, which is embedded across all activities. Children’s ability to predict routines and make connections to their world allows them to feel safe, secure and supported and part of a wider community (EYLF). Rebecca and her colleagues aim to provide children with experiences and opportunities to lay the foundation for lifelong learning.
Community Early Learning Australia is a not for profit organisation with a focus on amplifying the value of early learning for every child across Australia - representing our members and uniting our sector as a force for quality education and care.