There is no doubt COVID-19 has changed our lives in a number of ways. From social distancing to mandatory mask-wearing, our world is still reeling from the short-term measures and long-term impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
It has also significantly affected our schooling system and childcare and preschool programs across the country.
This is seeing parents ask themselves many questions. ‘Will these interruptions create new challenges when my child starts school next year?’ ‘What can I do to help them?’ And, ultimately, ‘Is my child ready for school?’
“When to send your child to school is one of the biggest decisions parents face, and it’s a very individual choice based on the child and the needs of the family. Add to that the complexities of a global pandemic and it’s not surprising that parents are feeling more uncertain than ever,” says Bronywn Thomson, Curriculum Lead, Guardian Childcare & Education.
School readiness is more than knowing their ABCs and 123s – it’s about your child’s social and emotional development. For parents of children who are on the cusp, there really is no right or wrong decision, but there are ways to make an informed decision.
“High quality childcare – with a focus on education – is the perfect environment for children to develop socially and emotionally in the lead up to formal schooling.
“For those children who have missed out on a portion of their childcare or preschool due to COVID-19, it’s important to remember their preparation for primary school is not just about the final year leading up to that transition. These children have been preparing for the transition to school throughout their entire early learning journey, and in fact, from birth.
“There is no need to panic if you are the parent of a child on the cusp of starting primary school. Yes, it will be a different experience for the class of 2021 starting primary school. But rest assured that if your child has been enrolled in a preschool or kindergarten program such as those we provide at Guardian, the preparation for this transition has been a long time in the making,” says Bronwyn.
Research shows the biggest determinants of a positive transition to school, academic achievement and later success in life, are that young children need to be socially and emotionally ready.
That’s why the Guardian Curriculum has a strong focus on the development of such skills and aptitudes in children through real-world experiences. Working with their natural interests, as opposed to simply ticking a box.
Guardian Preschool and Kindergarten Programs provide children the benefits of a structured daily learning program, while supporting parents and carers with the longer care hours provided in a childcare setting. For parents who are unsure about whether to send their child to primary school next year, a childcare preschool program can help bridge that uncertainty.
So, what can parents of the potential ‘Class of 2021’ look out for to assess whether their child is ready for the next step? Here are a three key indicators to consider:
Is your child able to be separated from a carer?
Independence is an important quality for school children, and it can be developed in many ways.
“As part of our Preschool Program, Guardian encourages children to be independent. For instance, we wrap lunches so that the children know how to unpack their own lunches once in primary school. We also encourage independent play so that children know how to do things for themselves,” says Bronwyn.
“School demands more autonomy and independence, which means children need to be able to act under their own steam, like going to the toilet unaccompanied and knowing when they’re hot or cold.”
Leading child psychologist Dr Anna Cohen from Kids & Co says an important aspect of independence is self-confidence. This is seen in children who can separate themselves from their parent and adapt to change knowing they have a secure relationship they can draw on should they need to.
Is your child communicating clearly and forming relationships?
The ability to communicate emotions and form friendships are essential skills, and ones that are practised in abundance at childcare.
“Language and good communication are the cornerstones of learning. To grow at school, a child needs to effectively follow direction and competently comprehend what their teacher says. Perhaps even more importantly, they also need to connect with other students using their evolving language and relationship skills.
“Friendships can be complicated in the schoolyard, and your child needs to be able to navigate conflicts and disagreements as they arise. Preschool presents the opportunity to form friendships, and Guardian’s program encourages group learning, aiding their ability to verbalise and show resilience as they encounter differing opinions and ideas,” explains Bronwyn.
To gauge this skill, watch your child in group settings, tips Dr Cohen. “Being able to communicate their emotions and showing a willingness to try new things will be important in helping them adjust to the new routines and social dynamics of school.”
Does your child problem-solve and show curiosity?
Asking questions about how things work, and why things are the way they are, are good indications that a child may be ready for school.
“Singing songs, engaging children in projects and group activities that interest them, and allowing their imaginations to run wild are just some of the ways we encourage curiosity and problem-solving,” says Bronwyn.
“But, the key thing to remember as parents is that starting school is not so much about academic outcomes as it is about social and emotional readiness, and as parents you know your children. Whatever decision you make will be the right one!” adds Bronwyn.
For more information on Guardian Childcare & Education’s Preschool Programs visit: https://www.guardian.edu.au/childcare-and-education/preschool-and-kindergarten-program/
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