Research proves a smooth transition to school sets children up for educational success throughout their life. About Catholic Schools explores the key transitions that mark milestones in young lives.
In the life of every child transition is inevitable, and both children and their parents need strategies to cope with the challenges each present. The first year of primary school is just the beginning – one of the most defining moments for Catholic families after the sacrament of Baptism and preschool.
Across Sydney’s Catholic schools, 5,883 new Kindergarten students will experience a smooth and comfortable transition thanks to the NSW Transition to School Statement. Completed by parents, carers and early childhood educators, the statement records each child’s interests, abilities, preferred ways of learning and how well they self-regulate their emotions. The information is used to help them settle into the new world of school.
Many transition-to-school programs also give Kindergarten teachers an opportunity to identify a child’s strengths on orientation days. The type of program and depth of information obtained can vary between locations.
High school in itself is complex and challenging.
Jane Taylor, Assistant Principal at St Paul of the Cross Catholic Primary Dulwich Hill, says the school’s transition program starts earlier than most, ensuring that parents and their children feel a strong sense of belonging over six months before they head to school. The program runs for two hours every week during Term 3 and involves specialist teachers. It covers areas including Religion, Mathematics, and Reading to help Kindergarten teachers to get to know their new students, gather data and form positive relationships.
“Families become part of our community even before they officially start school,” she said. “We know that fostering a sense of belonging at school leads to a positive sense of wellbeing and strong academic achievement. Kindergarten transition is considered to be a season of play and enjoyment for our families, rather than a one-day event.”
Ian Bennie, Acting Religious Education Coordinator at St Gertrude’s Catholic Primary Smithfield, says initiation into the Catholic faith is another important transition to prepare young children for. He says participation in the Parish’s First Communion Sacramental program requires a significant commitment from parents and children.
“The Eucharist is such an integral part of celebrating the Liturgy, and by receiving the symbolic body and blood of Christ helps the child feel more connected to the liturgy,” he says.
“Most children prepare to receive their first Holy Communion in Year 3. During this time, students are busy forming friendships and are studying for NAPLAN. Family responsibilities can be high as some students are also committed to extra-curricular activities like sport or dance. It is important to be supportive at this time as it can be challenging and anxious for students.”
Towards the end of the school journey, students preparing for their HSC have yet more transitions to negotiate. Rest, diet, part-time work, stress management and life balance become the new basics for a successful transition.
Transition specialist Jenny Atkinson says moving from primary to secondary school can also cause students worry. Ms Atkinson says the key to helping children to manage change is to get the balance right. “High school in itself is complex and challenging. New high school students nevertheless are expected to be far more independent,” she says.“There are now valuable transition programs in Year 6 in Sydney Catholic schools providing familiarisation for students.”