The benefits of a preschool located in the grounds of a school
“Ninety per cent of a child’s brain development occurs in the first five years of their life, making it a critical window for early education as they develop new skills and explore new learning opportunities. Research shows that children who participate in quality preschool programs are more likely to arrive at school equipped with the social, cognitive and emotional skills they need to engage in learning. These benefits continue well beyond primary school.” (NSW Department of Education 2018)
Onsite Preschool programs are necessary for school success in the following ways:
- Successful Transition to School (TTS) is about early childhood services and schools working together with families and young children to help facilitate a smooth and seamless transition to school – removing barriers and creating positive experiences for children with trusted educators in a school setting.
- A TTS is different from a Kindy orientation program. Orientation programs often comprise one or two visits to the school which provide practical but important info for families. An orientation is a component of a TTS program. A TTS program is a set of planned experiences or a process established over a longer period of time.
- A successful TTS is developed in response to the needs of parents and children within the local context.
- Successful TTS is very difficult when there is distance between preschool and school – transport, excursion regulations, adult/child ratios of 1:4 make school visits more difficult & less frequent. Successful TTS involves ongoing experiences with several visits to a school learning environment.
- Positive TTS when partnerships between school and preschool benefits both staff teams, children and families.
- There is clear evidence that well founded well implemented TTS programs can improve young children’s cognitive, social and emotional functioning ‘Transition to school is particularly challenging for vulnerable children” Feinstein & Bynner (2004) “School based transition practices produce more positive outcomes and are particularly beneficial for children from disadvantaged backgrounds” Shulting (2005).
- Input from a range of stakeholders – families, preschools and schools is a key element in ensuring a smooth transition to school.
- Some families may have particularly complex needs which require schools and preschools to work closely together to design and implement extended TTS programs – time constraints and heavy workloads result in school and off site preschool teachers rarely working together for best outcomes as most teachers cannot find the time to go off site for meetings or to observe children in a preschool setting.
- Individual and collaborated support for families from diverse backgrounds.
- The Beginning School Well program (early intervention) is usually led by a qualified ECT at an approximate cost of $6000 per year to the DoE (Department of Education) – the school saves this money having a preschool on site with qualified ECTs working with school teachers and families at no cost to DoE.
- Extended TTS recommended by DOE suggests – weekly numeracy/literacy programs organised in collaboration with local Early Learning Centres, provides positive partnerships between teachers, children and families. Parents are included in strategy meetings with teachers from both settings to assist with their child’s learning and development – this best practice model is made much easier with a colocated preschool and primary school.
- Recommendations in the Early Years Learning Framework (preschool curriculum) promotes a continuity of learning.
- Schools and preschools can, through a shared collaborative approach, minimise costs to ongoing programs.
- Interagency collaboration made easier and therefore more likely to be successful for children who experience a disability or require early intervention.
- Being onsite allows children to take part in school life and activities – integrating knowledge and experiences for smooth transitions.
- Indigenous families may be mistrustful of schools or with authority – being on site of their future school helps to familiarise families and children and minimise stress and anxiety by building trust and respect. This translates into positive experiences for Indigenous children and closes the gap.
- Preschools assist families with paperwork/admin task when enrolling at schools.
- Beneficial for teachers to be up to date with knowledge of early childhood programs/curriculums and vice versa for ECTs to know of school curriculum – they would not collaborate or even cross each other’s professional paths unless they share a site.