Helping Kindy kids succeed at school

Kids reading with teacher

At a glance

  • When children start school they bring all the things they learnt at home with them.
  • Keep up the things you did with your child before they started school, like bedtime reading.
  • Talk to your child's teacher if you have concerns about your child's learning.
  • Get your child to school on time; it helps avoid anxiety.
  • Get involved in your school; it shows your children you value education.

There are many ways to help your child thrive when they start 'big' school.

A great way to kick off your child's formal education is to understand the school culture and what your child is doing in the classroom. It can give you peace of mind and your child sound directions in their learning for life.

Doing school well

Jann Farmer-Hailey, an early years expert at the NSW Department of Education, describes the period when your child is adjusting to formal schooling as a time of "translations". She says children already come to school with a bundle of skills and it's a matter of shifting that knowledge into a school context.

"Children develop knowledge in a particular environment, be it day care, preschool or at home with mum, dad, nana or a caregiver. They are now taking that learning to a different setting and it has to be translated," Jann says.

For example, at home children may write a shopping list using scribbles or recognised letters. When they're asked about the list they might say they want green grapes "so they know there is a message there", Jann says. "Now at school they have to put it into more recognisable forms."

Children see parents walk into the school and see that mum and dad value education.Ruth Goldstein Bundanoon Public School

Getting comfortable with learning

The ease with which children are able to settle into school relies on a teacher's skill, and how well the family supports their child through the process. For parents this simply means to "keep doing the things you have been doing", Jann says.

"It's not about doing twice as much work now your child may be expected to practise with a home reader, it's about maintaining good practice and short, sharp interludes of reading," she says.

"Don't stop the conversations about when you were at the supermarket buying things, or reading off the label. Don't stop the counting activities, but now be aware that they are bringing in more precise learning and tune into that and celebrate it."

Kindergarten children at NSW public schools undergo the Best Start Kindergarten Assessment, where the knowledge each child brings to school is gauged so the teacher can develop suitable programs. Parents receive feedback on activities and games they can do with their child at home to boost their learning. Best Start is a great conversation starter between the teacher and you about your child's learning, Jann says. However, if you have concerns about any aspect of their learning, talk to the teacher.

"That will only enhance the working relationship. The school won't know if you're concerned unless they hear from you," she says.

Parents with English as their second language can get assistance through the Telephone Interpreter Service on 131 450.

Learning is a partnership

Developing a partnership with the school is a great way to enhance your child's learning experiences, says Ruth Goldstein, an experienced Kindergarten teacher in the Southern Highlands.

"Research shows that parental involvement impacts positively on a child's education, so volunteer for things like the canteen or reading groups and certainly become a member of the P&C, which is a great way for working parents to support their child at school," Ruth says.

"Children see parents walk into the school and see that mum and dad value education. That sends a really loud message to them. Arriving on time is also important. Arriving late continually at school causes great anxiety for a little child in their first year of school. They have to walk in, they're anxious about their school day anyway, all eyes are on them. It also sends a message to them that school's not really important enough to be on time for."

Parents are role models for their child's attitude to school and your child will copy your behaviour, Ruth says.

"If you're anxious, they'll be anxious too, and if you're unhappy with any aspect of the school your child will follow that cue," she says. "If you do have concerns, make a time to meet with your child's teacher. The end of the day is preferable to the start because most teachers are preparing in the mornings for the busy day ahead."

High hopes

Academic expectations can be a source of worry for parents but they needn't be. Resources to help you support your child in their learning are everywhere – from writing activity manuals in bookshops to the explanations of Early Stage 1 (Kindergarten) outcomes and expectations provided by the NSW Board of Studies.

The best thing you can do to support your child's academic accomplishments is to take it a step at a time by focusing on the day-to-day aspects of their learning, Ruth says.

"Young children have little concept of long-term education outcomes so telling them they're going to learn to read or write in the first year of school might be disappointing to them," she says.

"Parents should celebrate the achievements as they unfold in the school, such as supporting them in home reading and doing a consistent job in that daily."


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