Expert advice to help your child transition to school

Blog Image for article Expert advice to help your child transition to school

COVID-19 has created a substantial upheaval in our lives, and as preschoolers get ready for the move to big school, some parents are concerned that childcare absences and changed routines in 2020 will affect their preschoolers’ preparedness for class in 2021.

To address these concerns and explain how you can help your preschooler make a smooth transition to a school environment in unsettled times, we spoke with Dr Kate Highfield, General Manager of Professional Learning and Research Translation at Early Childhood Australia.

Thank you for your time, Dr Highfield. You have over 20 years experience as a teacher, teacher educator and researcher, and have seen countless children make the transition to school. How do you suggest parents help preschoolers prepare for this important next step?

There are so many ways that we can help children have a strong transition to school, and this includes visiting the school, becoming familiar with the new environment, reading books and supporting friendships – but at the heart of all these is communication.

Take time to talk with your child about the move to school and about what happens during this time. And take time to contact your school, so you are familiar with your child's transition process and can participate in these, if possible.

Some parents are concerned about the effect of COVID-19 disruptions on their child’s readiness for school. What advice do you have for those who worry about their preschooler’s emotional and/or academic preparedness?

Key researchers in this area suggest that school readiness is a collective responsibility – with children, parents, early learning settings and schools all playing a part.

With this in mind, I suggest that we all need to take time to understand that this group of children who are transitioning to school have had a different transition process, and so have different skills.

It becomes more complicated when we recognise that schools have different expectations of children as they start school.

If you are concerned, I recommend that you discuss your concerns with your early childhood education teachers and with the school your child will attend. They may put your mind at ease or suggest some specific and important school readiness skills to practise.


What are the main ways that educators can help children prepare for school in this last part of the year?

I spent nine years teaching kindergarten – and loved every minute of it. To me, the best way for educators to support the transition to school is to support the children. So, I’d encourage educators to:

  • Help children build their language skills and social and confidence in developing friendships
  • Check that they feel secure, valued and respected and
  • Support them to build a sense of autonomy

Some children feel more confident when they have specific skills (e.g. being able to open their lunch box independently) or when they can communicate their understandings and learning.

And to me, building curiosity, resilience, and an interest in deep learning is more important than learning letters and sounds or numbers, as these skills help our children to be life-long learners.

Early Childhood Australia is the peak body for early childhood, and as well as advocating for under-fives and school-aged children, you support parents and educators to help youngsters learn and thrive. What resources are on offer for mums, dads and other caregivers?

Early Childhood Australia is pleased to provide a range of resources for parents and educators, including resources accessible through Kindle to help with a child's development.

Our parent resources are written by early childhood professionals and cover topics such as:

  • Managing change
  • Play and learning
  • Supporting brain development
  • Children’s behaviour and
  • Bullying.

We also provide resources to help educators support families. For instance, our Transition to School: Communication and Relationships book draws on Australian and international research to help educators develop secure, respectful and reciprocal relationships between themselves, children, families and everyone involved in the transition to school.

It’s true that COVID-19 has changed some preschool arrangements and upset family routines this year, but a focus on good communication, strong relationships and collective responsibility will go a long way in helping our preschoolers make a smooth and successful transition to school next year, and I wish families all the best with this exciting move to primary education.

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