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Opinion: transitioning to school starts on day one of preschool

The end of the year is fast approaching, and for many parents that means starting to think about the exciting new journey their child will soon embark on – transitioning from preschool to school.

For educators and teachers, however, the work to make this transition a positive, enriching experience for both children and families begins much earlier. For early childhood educators and teachers, the work starts on the first day of preschool. From day one in partnership with families, they have spent the year building children’s social, emotional, literacy and numeracy skills, their critical and creative thinking, their perseverance, sociability and self-esteem. This is some of the most important work that happens in children’s life, yet it often goes unrecognised, unheralded.

There are compelling reasons at both the policy and community levels to be thinking about how we make preschool-to-school transitions successful. Data from the Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) show us that one in five Victorian children start their first year of school with a developmental vulnerability. This rate is similar for those in other states and territories.

According to AEDC indicators, children who do not attend preschool (or kindergarten, as it’s known in Victoria) are more vulnerable at school entry across all five areas or “domains” of early childhood development.

The research that sits behind this is clear: participation in a high-quality preschool program promotes cognitive development and wellbeing. Preschool participation also has a direct causal effect on future learning: children who attend preschool have been shown to be one term of formal schooling more advanced than children who did not attend, as measured by the Year 3 NAPLAN results.

This year, more than 95% of Victorian children are attending a funded kindergarten program in the year before school, in either a stand-alone or long day care service. This is giving these children a significant leg-up when it comes to life-long learning, but as policy-makers we recognise we can do more.

Over the past year, the Victorian Department of Education and Training has been working to improve the resources that support early childhood education and care (ECEC) services and schools in making children’s transitions as smooth as possible. In 2017, Victoria will be releasing a significantly revised Transition to School Kit. This will provide up-to-date, evidence-based information for schools and ECEC services on the most effective transition to school processes and practices, including advice on providing extra transition support for the children and families who need it most.

Victoria is working hard to make sure that all young children are on the track to success. How we approach the transition to school process is a key part of improving outcomes. This is a special time of year for educators and teachers, as well as families. It is when they see the culmination of strong partnerships and collaboration come to fruition. It’s not always clear to the public the hard work that really sits behind this, so I’d like to thank all the educators and teachers whose efforts make all the difference to children about to start their formal schooling journey.

Photo: jennymikakos.com.au

Photo: jennymikakos.com.au

Jenny Mikakos is Minister for Families and Children and Minister for Youth Affairs in Victoria’s Labor government.

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