Schools get creative in welcoming children as COVID makes transition visits tough
Many parents and early childhood education and care (ECEC) professionals have been managing concerns about children all over Australia, but especially in Victoria, making the transition from early learning to formal education following the challenging events of 2020.
Ordinarily children due to attend school for the first time in 2021 would be touring their school of choice, and familarising children with the routines and spaces of their new educational environment. COVID-19 restrictions have made this challenging in some parts of Australia.
In metropolitan Melbourne, schools were told at the beginning of Term Four that they were not able to host the 2021 cohort of prep students onsite, while restrictions in regional Victoria were less strict, permitting groups of up to ten people (composed of parents, children and teachers) to have transition visits.
At time of print, advice from the Victorian Government was as follows:
Transition visits can occur in metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria.
This allows one Foundation teacher per visit to meet on-site with a Kindergarten teacher and children in a kindergarten setting to support the transition of children into Prep in 2021.
Small groups (no more than 10) of incoming children, their parents and/or early childhood educators are also allowed to visit one Foundation teacher per visit in a school (see below for further details).
This does not change other advice on limiting non-essential visitors under the Third Step of the roadmap for reopening.
Occupational Health and Safety Guidance for Foundation teacher transition visits to kindergartens must be followed.
As well as teachers attending ECEC facilities, schools are being encouraged to improvise and adapt to help children to make the transition to formal education, with Associate Professor Kay Margetts, an expert in early education at Melbourne University’s Graduate School of Education, telling the Brisbane Times that schools “should be going out of their way to put children who attend kindergarten together in the same classrooms.”
Other ideas, such as opening playgrounds on weekends, or organising small social gatherings for new attendees in local public parks could help ease into a school year and meet potential new friends, and virtual tours can help children to become familiar with a space.
The Victorian Government has put forward $4 million to assist in transitions this year, funding extra hours to support prep teachers to go to kinders, meet children, and help them feel safe and ready for school.
“No matter what experiences children have had in their kindergarten year, they will have developed a range of skills and abilities that they will continue to build on to transition to school,” a Departmental spokesperson told the Brisbane Times.
Experienced prep teacher, Lynne Bok, said her school, Belgrave South, will host virtual learning sessions with prep teachers and incoming prep students, with story reading and activities, as well as YouTube tours of the school and classrooms.
“Children are more resilient than we give them credit for,” Ms Bok said, aiming to allay any fears about the process.
For more information on transition funding, please see here.