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Age group 0 to 5 years

Transition to school

Starting school is a significant time for children and their families. A successful start at school is not only shaped by children’s socio-emotional and behavioural capabilities, but also their cognitive capabilities including early literacy and numeracy skills.

There is limited data on WA children’s transition to school. This indicator currently reports data from the on-entry assessment of literacy and numeracy skills and understandings for Pre-primary students in government schools.

Overview and areas of concern

In WA, Pre-primary is the first compulsory year of schooling. Children who have turned five years of age by 30 June attend Pre-primary that year, those who turn five after 30 June attend in the following year.

In the first year of full-time schooling, children are required to adapt to a new environment with new rules and expectations and less familiar classroom structures and routines.1 

Children who make a positive start at school are more likely to develop a sense of belonging, establish good relationships with peers and teachers, and be motivated to learn.2 

Data overview

There is limited data on WA children’s transition to school.

Areas of concern

Only 67.1 per cent of all WA children in care of compulsory school-age have a documented education plan. 

The lack of data measuring whether WA children transition to school successfully.

Endnotes

  1. Krakouer J et al 2017, Early Years Transitions: Supporting Children and Families at Risk of Experiencing Vulnerability – Rapid Literature Review, prepared by Australian Council for Educational Research and Brotherhood of St Laurence for the Victorian Government.
  2. Kids Matter 2018, Thinking about Transition to School (website).
Measure: Literacy and numeracy

Children’s literacy and numeracy skills are a fundamental component of their ability to learn at school and engage productively in society over the longer term. In early childhood, literacy includes reading, writing, speaking and listening, and numeracy includes counting, problem-solving, organising and measuring.1

Early assessment of children’s literacy and numeracy skills can aid the identification of any difficulties that may affect a child’s learning outcomes.2

There is limited data publicly available on the literacy and numeracy skills of WA children entering full-time school. The NAPLAN assessment in Year 3 is the first time the educational outcomes of students are measured and reported publicly. For information on the NAPLAN results refer to the Academic achievement indicator for the 6 to 11 years age group.

Most Pre-primary students in WA schools participate in an on-entry assessment of the literacy and numeracy skills they bring to school.Teachers use this information to assist in the planning and development of targeted learning programs that address the needs of each student. Children who may require early intervention or extension are also identified.

The on-entry assessment does not involve a pass or fail mark and there is no minimum standard.

In WA, 98 per cent of all Pre-primary students in government schools4 participate in on-entry assessment. A lower proportion of students living in very remote areas are assessed (76%) compared to students living in Perth and regional and remote areas (between 98% and 95%).5 

WA children’s participation in government schools Pre-primary on-entry school assessment by geolocation, in numbers and per cent, 2017

Semester 1
student enrolments

On-entry assessment participation

%
participating

All

25,174

24,645

98

Major cities

19,103

18,390

96

Inner regional

2,253

2,161

96

Outer regional

1,855

1,792

97

Remote

1,207

1,147

95

Very remote

756

575

76

Source: Data provided by the Department of Education WA (unpublished).

The purpose of the assessment is to provide teachers with information about each child’s capabilities to enable them to develop targeted learning programs as required. Children deemed at risk in Term 1 are generally re-assessed in Term 4 to determine their progress.6

While this data is not intended to provide a population-based measure of children’s capabilities, the following tables provide an indication of the types of literacy and numeracy skills and understandings that are assessed. These skills and understandings are considered critical to early and ongoing educational development.7

Percentage of WA government school Pre-primary students who demonstrated selected skills assessed in Literacy Module 1, 2015-2017

% of Pre-primary students who
demonstrated skill

2015

2016

2017

Identifies most pairs of
rhyming and non-rhyming words

69

68

67

Locates the title of a book

83

83

83

Demonstrates an understanding
that print goes from left to right

75

75

74

Writes own name accurately,
or nearly accurately

88

89

88

Identifies most pairs of words
with the same initial sound

39

38

38

Identifies all upper case letter
names and/or sounds

24

25

24

Retells some events from
a story in sequence

55

56

55

Source: Data provided by the Department of Education WA (unpublished).

Percentage of WA government school Pre-primary students who demonstrated selected skills assessed in Numeracy Module 1, 2015-2017

% of Pre-primary students who
demonstrated skill

2015

2016

2017

Counts a set of 9 objects

84

84

83

Counts out 17 objects

40

41

40

Recognises all numerals 1 to 10

66

68

68

Partitions a given number,
e.g. shows that 4 is made up of 3
and 1 or 2 and 2.

78

78

77

Counts backwards from 10

63

67

66

Identifies the longer of two
objects by directly comparing

65

65

66

Identifies the tallest of three objects

96

96

96

Orders 3 objects according to mass

45

44

45

Source: Data provided by the Department of Education WA (unpublished).

No data exists on the early literacy or numeracy capabilities of WA children across different geographic locations or by Aboriginal status. However, by Year 3 children in remote areas and Aboriginal children are less likely to achieve the minimum standard for literacy and numeracy achievement (refer to the Academic achievement indicator for the 6 to 11 years age group).

Endnotes

  1. QLD Office for Early Childhood Education and Care 2018, Literacy and Numeracy Fact Sheet: Supporting your child in early childhood.
  2. Meiers M et al 2013, Literacy and numeracy interventions in the early years of schooling: a literature review, Australian Council for Educational Research, Report to the Ministerial Advisory Group on Literacy and Numeracy, NSW.
  3. WA Department of Education 2011, National Smarter Schools Partnerships: Implementation Plan, WA Department of Education, Catholic Education Office of Western Australia and Association of Independent Schools of Western Australia (INC), p. 4.
  4. Data is not available on the participation of students in non-government schools.
  5. WA Department of Education 2018, custom report.
  6. WA Department of Education 2018, On-Entry Assessment Program – Key messages for Pre-primary parents.
  7. Ibid.
Children in care

In 2017, there were 1,191 WA children in care aged between 0 and four years, more than half of whom (56.8%) were Aboriginal.1

All children in (or entering) care, of compulsory school age, are required to have a documented education plan.2 All children who enter care are also required to have a completed and approved Needs Assessment Tool (NAT). The NAT is a case management tool that assists child protection workers to consistently identify and assess the complex and changing needs of children in care across the dimensions of care, including education.3

There is no information on whether all children in care aged between four and five years have a documented education plan, however the Department of Communities published Outcomes Framework for Children in Out-of-home Care (2015-2016) reports that only 67.1 per cent of all WA children in care of compulsory school-age have a documented education plan. 

There is no available data on the transition to school of WA children in care or their literacy and numeracy skills and understandings.  

Endnotes

  1. Department for Child Protection and Family Support 2017, Annual Report 2016-17, WA Department for Child Protection and Family Support, p. 43.
  2. Child Protection and Family Support, Casework Practice Manuals: 3.4.7 Education (website).
  3. Child Protection and Family Support, Casework Practice Manuals: 3.4.11 Needs Assessment Tool (website).
Children with disability

The Australian Bureau of Statistics Disability, Ageing and Carers data collection reports that approximately 5,100 children aged 0 to four years have a reported disabilityand approximately 2,600 children are living with ‘profound or severe core activity limitation’ which indicates that a person is unable to do, or always needs help with, a core activity task.2

There is no available data on the transition to school of WA children with disability or their literacy and numeracy skills and understandings.

Endnotes

  1. ABS uses the following definition of disability: ‘In the context of health experience, the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICFDH) defines disability as an umbrella term for impairments, activity limitations and participation restrictions. In this survey, a person has a disability if they report they have a limitation, restriction or impairment, which has lasted, or is likely to last, for at least six months and restricts everyday activities.” Australian Bureau of Statistics 2016, Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia, 2015, Glossary.
  2. Estimates are to be used with caution as they have a relative standard error of between 25 and 50 per cent. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2016, Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia, 2015: Western Australia, Table 1.1 Persons with disability, by age and sex, 2012 and 2015 estimate, and Table 1.3 Persons with disability, by age and sex, 2012 and 2015, proportion of persons.
Policy implications

The transition to school is a significant time for children. How well children are prepared for this transition is important as it impacts on their immediate engagement at school and also their longer term educational outcomes. 

There is no formal assessment of WA children’s individual preparedness for school. The AEDC data provides community level data and is not used to assess an individual child’s readiness for school. The on-entry assessment during Pre-primary in public schools and equivalent assessments in private schools is used to assist in the planning and development of targeted learning programs for each child once they are in school.

Children’s preparedness for full-time school is determined by multiple factors including their cognitive, social, physical and emotional development. Children’s literacy and numeracy skills are a fundamental component of their ability to learn at school and engage productively in society over the longer term.

Development of these capabilities is influenced by parents and families, access to quality early childhood education services (including Kindergarten) and other community resources, such as libraries and playgroups.1 During this period families, ECEC service providers, other community organisations such as Early Years Networks and schools have an opportunity to work together to ensure the best possible outcomes for children.2,3 The cumulative effect of these influences determines children’s ability to transition to school successfully.

Young children’s everyday experiences and conversations contribute significantly to developing literacy and numeracy skills. As already discussed in the Informal learning opportunities indicator, parents and carers are encouraged to read to their child and assist their child in recognising letters and words, but it is also important to talk about numeracy concepts including through counting objects or using terms like ‘half’ or ‘quarter’. Refer to the Australian Department of Education resource: Early Childhood Literacy and Numeracy: Building Good Practice for further information on the types of everyday activities that develop literacy and numeracy skills.  

The transition to school is not experienced in the same way by all children. As outlined in the Readiness for learning indicator, some children, including those from low socio-economic and/or disadvantaged backgrounds, are more likely to find the transition to school difficult.

In Australia, research has found that the transition to school is likely to be more challenging for children from financially disadvantaged families, Aboriginal families, from culturally and linguistically diverse families, and children with disability.4 During the transition to school, families with complex support needs can experience additional stress and they are less likely than other families to have positive relationships and engagement with their child’s school.5,6

Data gaps

There is limited data available which measures whether WA children are prepared for school.

A recent review of the literature has found that there is minimal research about the effectiveness of early years transition programs designed for children and families at risk of vulnerability in their transition to school, particularly children who have experienced trauma, children living in care, and children experiencing intergenerational poverty.7 More research and data is required in this area.

Additionally, there is minimal data or research on how WA children from disadvantaged backgrounds, including Aboriginal children, children in care and children with disability experience the transition to school and how they could be better supported to positively engage with, and enjoy going to, school.

Endnotes

  1. Centre for Equity and Innovation in Early Childhood 2008, Literature Review: Transition: a positive start to school, Melbourne Graduate School of Education, University of Melbourne.
  2. Ibid, p. 17.
  3. Western Australian Council of Social Service 2017, Local Government and Early Years Networks: Working in Partnership Resource, WACOSS, Department of Local Government and Communities, WA Local Government Association and Local Government Professionals.
  4. Rosier K and McDonald M 2011, Promoting positive education and care transitions for children, Communities and Families Clearing House resource sheet, November 2011, Australian Institute of Family Studies.
  5. Edwards B et al 2009, Financial disadvantage and children's school readiness, Family Matters, No 83, October, Australian Institute of Family Studies.
  6. Dockett S et al 2010, School readiness: what does it mean for Indigenous children, families, schools and communities? Issues paper No 2, Closing the Gap Clearinghouse, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and Australian Institute of Family Studies.
  7. Krakouer J et al 2017, Early Years Transitions: Supporting Children and Families at Risk of Experiencing Vulnerability – Rapid Literature Review, prepared by Australian Council for Educational Research and Brotherhood of St Laurence for the Victorian Government.
Further resources

For more information on the transition to school refer to the following resources: