Welcoming Change: Transition to a new school year starts now

Looking towards a new school year brings the excitement of new possibilities and also the anxiety of facing new challenges. Particularly in major years of transition, such as Kindy to Pre-Primary, Primary school to High school, or for Senior High school students looking towards graduation and tertiary education, there is much to do to prepare for the changes to come.

Wisely, many teachers, parents and students begin to prepare early, typically addressing any educational issues in the second semester before the new school year begins. With little ones, the discussion about ‘going to the big school’ may start as early as this, with more intense preparation in January just before classes begin.

Reasons for this early preparation are clear. Dr. Aradhana Bela Sood from the Division of Child Psychiatry at the Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center explains that minimising stress caused by periods of transition allows young people to use their emotional and psychological energy where it is most required, such as making new friends and adjusting to changes in classwork (Children’s Hospital of Richmond, 2011).

Common areas of concern for younger children transitioning at school include anxiety around being in a new environment, meeting the teacher and fellow classmates and being away from mum or dad. As children grow, concerns
might focus on who children will be placed with in the classroom, whether or not they have the ‘right’ stationery and books, and handling an increased workload and more difficult learning activities. Dr. Laura Markham in her parenting blog AhaParenting.com suggests a number of strategies to alleviate anxiety andprepare children emotionally. She touches on ways to facilitate your child’s bonding with the teacher and other children, and even suggests with young ones to practise saying goodbye.  Katie Wetherbee (2007) suggests creating family traditions and setting personal goals at the start of a new school year as a fun and positive way to physically and emotionally prepare.

Research into the Guidelines for Effective Transition to School Programs in New South Wales highlighted some key points concerning transition within high school and beyond. This included the importance of relationships, the need to focus on strengths rather than weaknesses and the need for quality programs and dedicated support and resources (2005, p.3). Recently more and more students attend after-school educational support either from within the school’s
resource pool or from an outside provider. Typically, they will seek one-to-one or group classes to go over subject areas needing strengthening, revise for end of year exams or prepare for scholarship-based entry exams. Particularly where
competition is high, parents and students are feeling the need to find all the extra support they can.

So what are some general tips to prepare for transition to a new school year?

  • Begin to talk about expectations, goals and concerns early
  • Focus on the positive to alleviate worry and build confidence
  • Learn as much as you can about the new environment: do a practise run to school, visit the classroom, chat with the teacher and ask older students what to expect
  • Model good organisational skills: Get new books, stationery and uniforms early, use a diary or planner, have everything ready for school the day before, including lunch and bus money!
  • Address educational needs early: Transitioning to a higher level of schooling means greater demands on the student. Ensure you know where the child is in relation to the norm and address areas of need with plenty of time so that the child is prepared, relaxed and feeling ready for new challenges. Remember, learning new concepts and skills takes time! If you are unsure, seek information from your child’s current teacher or book an
    assessment with a reputable tutoring agency – these are often free of charge and give you the chance to see if that particular learning environment may be useful for your child in future.

References

Dr. Aradhana Bela Sood, ‘How to help children transition to a new school year’, Tidbits Newsletter Fall 2011, Children’s Hospital of Richmond, Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center. Retrieved 19/9/12 from  http://www.vcuchildrens.org/upload/docs/tidbits%20fall%202011.pdf

Dr. Laura Markham, ‘Preparing your child for the new school year’, AhaParenting.com, 2012. Retrieved 19/9/12 from http://www.ahaparenting.com/ages-stages/school-age/Preparing-kids-child-New-School-Year

NSW Department of Education and Training (2005) Sydney Region Transition Project. Retrieved 19/9/12 from http://www.youth.nsw.gov.au/__data/page/1205/DET_transition_finalreport.pdf

Wetherbee, K. (2007) ‘Transition effectively into the new school year’, Hope Educational Consulting LLB. Retrieved 19/9/12 from http://hopeforlearning.com/articles/currents0806.html

 

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