This paper outlines the task set out for the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) regarding the development of templates to transfer information on children’s learning and development between preschools and primary schools in Ireland. 

It also focuses on the outcomes and implications of a research review on the transition from preschool to primary school commissioned by the NCCA to underpin this work. The key messages from this research highlight that:

  1. a positive experience during the transition to primary school is important.
  2. certain dispositions, skills and knowledge are important for children as they make the transition to primary school.
  3. greater alignment in curriculum and pedagogy across preschools and primary schools is needed.
  4. supporting transitions is a shared responsibility between children, families, communities, preschools and primary schools.
  5. the transfer of information on children’s learning and development between preschools and primary schools is an important part of the transition process.

National frameworks and their support for the transition to primary school

Both Aistear, the Early Childhood Curriculum Framework (NCCA, 2009) and Síolta: The National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education (CECDE, 2006) highlight the importance of transitions, including the transition to primary school. The Aistear Siolta Practice Guide (www.aistearsiolta.ie) is an on-line resource to support practitioners to use the two frameworks together. A number of resources, including a self-evaluation tool are available to help practitioners support children and families with the transition to primary school.

The NCCA’s role in supporting the transition
from preschool to primary school

The transition of children from preschool to primary school is an area of work for the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment over the coming years. The NCCA advises the Minister for Education and Skills on curriculum and assessment for early childhood, and for primary and post-primary schools. As part of Literacy and Numeracy for Learning and Life: The National Strategy to Improve Literacy and
Numeracy among Children and Young People 2011-2020 (2011) the NCCA was assigned responsibility for developing suitable reporting templates and to make these available on-line to

Improve arrangements for the transfer of information about the progress and achievement of students between all schools and state-funded ECCE settings by requiring all settings and schools to provide written reports in standard format to schools and settings to which students transfer (reports to be provided following admission of student to the new school/setting) (Department of Education and Skills, 2011, p.82)

The Department of Education and Skills, and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs are to make the transfer of information a requirement (DES, 2011).

As preparation for this work, the NCCA commissioned the following:

  • Transition from Preschool to Primary School: Research Report 19 (O’Kane, 2016) which is a review of the literature nationally and internationally.
  • Transition from Preschool to Primary School: Audit of Policy in 14 Jurisdictions (O’Kane and Murphy, 2016a) which looks at data transfer and the transition process.
  • Transition from Preschool to Primary School: Audit of Transfer Documentation in Ireland (O’Kane and Murphy, 2016b) which is an audit of ten transfer documents that have been developed collaboratively between preschools and primary schools.

Executive summaries of the above three papers outline key learning from each paper and are available at www.ncca.ie. A synopsis of key messages from the three papers is now presented.

Key messages from the transition research papers

Key message 1

A positive experience during the transition to primary school is important

The main findings of the literature review support the view that a positive experience during the transition to primary school is a predictor of children’s future success in terms of social, emotional and educational outcomes (Dockett and Perry, 2007; Peters, 2010). Children experiencing social and economic disadvantage, children with English as an additional language (EAL) and children with special educational needs may require particular supports at the time of transition to primary school. Despite the importance of this educational transition there is little evidence of it being recognised at policy level nationally or in the jurisdictions reviewed in the international audit.

Key message 2

Important dispositions, skills and knowledge for children as they make the transition to primary school

In terms of key dispositions, skills and knowledge that best support children as they transition from preschool to primary school, a good degree of consistency is found in the literature nationally and internationally. The focus is on social and emotional skills, communication andlanguage skills, positive learning dispositions like independence and curiosity, and self-help skills, with less focus being placed on academic skills (O’Kane and Hayes, 2010; Jones, Greenberg and Crowley, 2015).

Key message 3

Greater alignment in curriculum and pedagogy across preschools and primary schools is needed

While the research reviewed highlights the importance of greater alignment between curriculum and pedagogy across preschools and primary schools, there continues to be a discontinuity, particularly in terms of pedagogical practice. Research has indicated that formal approaches to education during the early years of primary school have the potential to impact negatively on children (Fabian 2013, Petriwskyi 2013, Fallon and O’Sullivan 2015), thus supporting the case for interactive, play-based learning.

Key message 4 

Supporting transitions is a shared responsibility

The need for families, preschools and primary schools to communicate and to work together to support children making the transition from preschool to primary school is emphasised in the research (Educational Transitions and Change (ETC) Research Group, 2011; Trodd 2013; Dockett and Perry, 2014). However, it appears that collaboration and communication between families, preschools and primary schools is still not happening in any systematic or comprehensive manner, nationally or internationally.

Key message 5

Transfer of information on children’s learning and development between preschools and primary schools is important

The research highlights that a key part of communication includes the transfer of relevant information on children’s learning and development between preschools and primary schools (ETC Research Group 2011). No jurisdiction reviewed has a nationally agreed template for the transfer of information on children’s learning and development as proposed for Ireland, though in Ireland as in many other jurisdictions templates to transfer information have been developed and used on an ad hoc basis.

Conclusion and implications for NCCA’s work

The transition from preschool to primary school is an important milestone in children’s lives. The commissioned research papers provide important messages not only for NCCA but for all those concerned with this important educational transition. The papers extend our understanding of some of the issues surrounding this transition internationally and nationally, and give insights into the multiple factors which influence this important event in children’s lives. The key messages confirm that a positive experience during the transition to primary school is important. Certain dispositions, skills and knowledge are important for children as they make the transition and therefore should be focused on in preschools. Supporting transitions is a shared responsibility between children, families, communities, preschools and primary schools. Yet communication and relationship building are not happening for many children and this issue needs to be addressed.

The transfer of information on children’s learning and development between preschools and primary schools is an important part of the transition process. While this transfer of relevant information is not happening in any systematic way as yet, the development of national templates as prioritised in the Literacy and Numeracy Strategy (2011) should be helpful in this regard if supported by a wider commitment to the transition process. Work will begin shortly by the NCCA on developing draft templates that are relevant, user-friendly and manageable for the Irish context. In 2017, NCCA will work with a small number of preschools and primary schools to try out the templates and following feedback, these will be further developed and made available in 2018. Parents and children will be involved in the process. In addition, NCCA will add to the resources in the Aistear Síolta Practice Guide to provide further guidance on supporting this important transition.

Greater alignment in curriculum and pedagogy across preschools and primary schools is needed and again this is an area of work for the NCCA. The structure of the Primary School Curriculum (DES, 1999) and the use of time across it, are being looked at by the NCCA over the coming months and could help in working towards a greater alignment of curriculum and pedagogy between these two educational settings. The NCCA’s work on transition templates and on the structure of, and use of time, in the primary curriculum provide important opportunities for helping children to make a successful transition from preschool to primary school in Ireland.

References

Department of Education and Skills, Ireland (1999) The Revised Primary School Curriculum, Dublin: The Stationery Office.

Department of Education and Skills, Ireland (2011) Literacy and Numeracy for Learning and Life: The National Strategy to Improve Literacy and Numeracy among

Children and Young People 2011-2020 Literacy and Numeracy. Retrieved November 2013, from http://www.education.ie/en/Schools-Colleges/ Information/Literacy-and-Numeracy/lit_num_ strat.pdf Department of Education and Skills, Ireland

Dockett, S., and Perry, B. (2009) Readiness for school: A relational construct, Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 34(1), 20-26.

Dockett, S., and Perry, B. (2014) Continuity of Learning: A resource to support effective transition to school and school age care. Canberra, ACT: Australian Government Department of Education.

Educational Transitions and Change (ETC) Research Group (2011) Transition to School Position Statement. Albury-Wodonga: Research Institute for Professional Practice, Learning and Education, Charles Stuart University. Retrieved November 2013, from http:// www.academia.edu/3307446/Transition_to_ school_Position_statement

Fabian, H. (2013). Towards Successful Transitions. In Margetts, K., and Keinig, A. (Eds..), International Perspectives on Transition to School:

Reconceptualising Beliefs, Policy and Practice. NY: Routledge.

 Fallon, J., and O’Sullivan, C. (2015) Teachers’ beliefs about play in the infant classes of primary schools in the Republic of Ireland. Paper Presented at

The 25th EECERA Annual Conference ‘Innovation, Experimentation and Adventure in Early Childhood’ Barcelona, Catalunya, Spain 7th - 10th September 2015. Retrieved February 2016, from http://www.eecera.org/documents/pdf/conferences/abstract-books/barcelona-2015.pdf

Jones, D. E., Greenberg, M., and Crowley, M. (2015) Early Social-Emotional Functioning and Public Health: The Relationship Between Kindergarten Social Competence and Future Wellness, American Journal of Public Health: Vol. 105, No. 11, pp. 2283-2290.

National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (2009) Aistear, The Early Childhood Curriculum Framework,  Dublin, Government Publications

National Council for Curriculum and Assessment. (2015). Aistear Síolta Practice Guide. Retrieved February 2016, from http://www.aistearsiolta.ie

O’Kane, M., and Hayes, N. (2010) Supporting Early Childhood Educational Provision within a Cluster of DEIS ECCE setting and Primary School Settings with a Specific Focus on Transition between the Two Educational Settings. Dublin: Centre for Social and Educational Research, Dublin Institute of Technology.

O’Kane M (2016) Transition from Preschool to Primary School: Research Report 19, Report Prepared for the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, www.ncca.ie

O’Kane, M., and Murphy, R. (2016a) Transition from preschool to primary school: Audit of policy in 14 jurisdictions, Report Prepared for the

National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, www.ncca.ie


O’Kane, M., and Murphy, R. (2016b) Transition from Preschool to Primary School in Ireland: Audit of Transfer Documentation in Ireland. Report Prepared for the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, www.ncca.ie

Petriwski, A. (2013). Inclusion and Transition to School in Australia. In Margetts, K., and Keinig A. (Eds..), International Perspectives on Transition to School: Reconceptualising Beliefs, Policy and Practice. NY: Routledge.

Trodd, L. (2013) Transitions in the Early Years: Working with Children and Families. London: Sage.

 

Author Information

Arlene is Deputy Chief Executive in the NCCA with responsibility for early childhood and primary education. Arlene began her career teaching

in the early years and primary both in Northern Ireland and in the Republic of Ireland. She joined the NCCA in 2001 to contribute to the Council’s work on early childhood education. Since then, she has led the development of Aistear which is Ireland’s curriculum framework for all children from birth to six years. As a director, Arlene has also worked in the areas of assessment and reporting, curriculum review, language and maths. She was appointed to her current post in March 2016.

Mary, is an Education Officer with the NCCA. She is a graduate of UCC with a BA in Early Childhood Studies and her Ph D. focused on young children’s well-being. Mary has worked in the early childhood sector in a number of different capacities over the past 15 years, working with the NCCA for the last 9 years. Mary was part of the team that developed Aistear and she was also involved in developing the Aistear Síolta Practice Guide (aistearsiolta.ie) an on-line resource to help practitioners to use Ireland’s curriculum and quality frameworks together. Mary’s current work focus is the transition of children from preschool to primary school in Ireland.