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Expert says school-start jitters avoidable

Across Australia, four, five and six-year-olds are feeling anxious, exhilarated, or possibly both. Their first day of ‘big school’ is imminent.

Although this year goes by various names – prep, kindergarten, year K – there is one commonality: parental uncertainty about a child’s school readiness.

Despite this, Susan Irvine, an associate professor of early childhood education at QUT, is urging parents to forgo popular developmental ‘checklists’ prior to dropping off their little ones at the gates.

“Don’t be distracted by single tasks like knowing the alphabet or writing their name. This is what they will learn in school,” she said.

She also warned against the narrow focus of checklists and their fabrication of ‘homogeneity’ among children:

“Children have a wide range of knowledge, skills and abilities, and the idea of a checklist often suggests that we want them all to be the same, and that’s ridiculous.”

 

Image: autismrecovery.sg.

Image: Child development chart by autismrecovery.sg.

Instead, Irvine suggested parents use the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF), as well as early learning educators, as handy school-readiness guides.

At a high level, the EYLF advises that before starting school, a child should be able to communicate, have a sense of self and social competence, and be disposed to learning.  Preschool educators can supplement this with a ‘transition statement’ for school teachers.

However, parents should ultimately decide whether their child is ready to don a school uniform, as they “know their children best”.

And, if Irvine had her way, the first uniformed year would be a playful one. She’s concerned that the year K syllabus is becoming too academic, which has been shown to demotivate young kids from learning. The introduction of the national school curriculum, coupled with frequent international assessments like PISA, are to blame.

But not all states are pushing this agenda. Notably, Queensland has taken steps to bring prep back to basics. This means less arithmetic and plenty of time in the sun. With this approach, surely kids will be more excited than nervous come day one of school.

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