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School readiness for 2021 preps

Posted on 4 September 2020
School readiness for 2021 preps

How to support your child during this unprecedented time

Deciding when to start your child in prep is a difficult decision at the best of times, let alone in 2020 the year COVID-19 upended life as we know it. Understandably, you may be confused, apprehensive or undecided about the transition to prep given the disruption COVID-19 may have caused to your child's important kinder year.

You may be wondering if you should still send your child to prep in 2021 and, if so, how to choose the school that will best support them through the transition.

What is 'school readiness'?

In researching when to send your child to school, you've probably heard the phrase 'school readiness.' What does this mean exactly? Very simply, school readiness is a measure of the knowledge, skills and behaviours that enable children to succeed at school. Traditionally, we've thought of this in terms of being able to read, write, count and identify colours. But in fact, these are all skills that will be taught at school and therefore not a priority for starting school.

Essentially, school readiness is about the development of the whole child their social and emotional, physical, communication and cognitive skills. In order to thrive at school, children need the skills to manage things like following instructions, communicating their needs and collaborating with others. Kathy Walker, Melbourne education consultant and early childhood expert at Early Life Foundations, says, "Readiness is really mostly about emotional and social maturity aspects of development that we cannot fast-track. We cannot make a child who lacks the necessary maturity become mature."

How to develop school readiness

So, how do we get our children school ready? Albert Einstein said, "Play is the highest form of research" and when it comes to early years education, the evidence supports this. We know that play is essential for emotional, social, physical and cognitive growth and wellbeing.

How does play develop school readiness?

  1. It forms secure attachments. Through play, children build strong relationships with friends, families and educators that make them feel safe and supported, increasing their happiness and self-esteem.
  2. It supports brain development. Play has the potential to shape the structural development of the brain, with many intellectual and cognitive benefits.
  3. It develops learning skills. Through play, children gain important learning and life skills such as inquiring, identifying, negotiating, risk-taking and imagining.
  4. It broadens speech and language. During play, children watch, listen and imitate exposing them to new vocabulary.
  5. It facilitates behavioural regulation. Collaborative play requires children to concentrate, take turns and share, developing their behavioural and emotional regulation.

Specifically, children need opportunities to:

  • Play freely with other children
  • Have conversations
  • Be read to
  • Express themselves through art and drama
  • Connect to nature through play
  • And do so in learning environments that support the above

School readiness for 2021

Normally, children have the opportunity to develop school readiness via play during their important kinder year. In 2020 though, COVID-19 has disrupted this significantly with many children kept at home during lockdown periods. The advice from some may be to keep your child home for another year. But it's important to consider what is required to get your child school ready and the environment that will best support this. For many parents juggling the demands of modern life, providing the required opportunities for play at home can be difficult.

So, what's the alternative? Rather than holding your child back, send them to a small, family-centred school that values relationships and can support them through this unprecedented transition. We believe St Columba's is uniquely equipped to do just that.

How St Columba's can support your 2021 prep

Due to the disruptions caused by COVID-19, we know your child will probably be starting prep with a little less school readiness than usual. As a small, close-knit school, we have the agility, unique educational framework and compassion to support your child through this challenging transition. Our motto is 'The little school with a big heart' and some extra TLC as preps transition to school is now more important than ever before. 

Specifically, we offer:

  • A purpose-built plan to provide extra support for 2021 preps, with a curriculum emphasising play, positive relationships, social skills and successful transition. Our comprehensive transition program will run via Zoom during Term 4, with the hope being to have preps on-site in November for a face-to-face welcome.
  • The only Catholic primary school in South Eastern Melbourne running the International Baccalaureate (IB) Primary Years Program (PYP) which centres around student-initiated play and hands-on learning, extending the kinder year into prep for an easier transition. 
  • Small class sizes enabling us to really focus on and support the needs of your individual child, wherever they are in their developmental journey.
  • Interactive learning environments to engage and support children in their transition, including an open learning library space, brand new adventure and nature play areas, kitchen garden and Elwood beach. These spaces encourage socialisation, symbolic play and creative problem solving.
  • An inclusive, welcoming community that embraces all families with open arms. You do not have to be Catholic to join our school and our religious education is respectful of all learners.
  • A convenient location in the heart of Elwood at 24 Glen Huntly Road.
  • And much more.

Our International Baccalaureate (IB) Primary Years Program (PYP)

We touched on the IB PYP above but given how essential a play-based program will be to the success of 2021 preps, it's worth delving into this a little more. St Columba's is a candidate school for the IB PYP and pursuing authorisation as an IB World School. IB World Schools share a common philosophy and commitment to improving the teaching and learning of students by delivering challenging, high-quality, inclusive programmes of international education that share a powerful vision.

When it comes to early years education, the IB PYP focuses on:

  1. Play
  2. Relationships
  3. Learning spaces

All of which are crucial to a successful transition for 2021 preps, essentially extending the kinder year for an easier transition. Fundamentally, the IB PYP creates safe, stimulating and inviting learning spaces and experiences that promote exploration, wonder, creativity, risk-taking and learning through play. This combination of student-initiated play, hands-on learning and inclusive collaboration works to develop young students' sense of self-esteem, independence and love of learning.

Most importantly, we know it works and our parents agree.

"We are the parents of a daughter born in March. We agonised over whether or not we were doing the right thing starting her in Prep as one of the youngest kids in her year, especially considering she was very quiet and reserved. However we soon realised that sending her here to St Columba's was absolutely the right decision. The smaller class size and the amazing teaching team of two experienced, passionate and enthusiastic teachers has done wonders for our daughter. Thanks to the care and dedication of the teaching cohort, and their skillful teaching, our daughter was reading confidently by June/July and her number skills developed rapidly. Normally a shy and reserved child, our daughter's confidence in general has grown. She now reaches out to make friends and voluntarily speaks up in class and on the playground. We love seeing how much she has grown and flourished and now shake our heads in disbief when we think back and realise how close we were in denying her this year of self growth at St Columba's had we chosen to hold her back. We are looking forward to many more wonderful years at this amazing school."

Book a one-on-one with our Principal

We're currently offering one-on-one introductory sessions with our Principal, Daniella Maddalena, via Zoom. Find out more about our 2021 transition program, get a personal feel for the school and ask any questions. Book your online session here. We look forward to meeting you and sharing all our school has to offer.

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What our parents & students say

"I have been a part of the St Columba's community now for over 30 years. First as a pupil, then as a staff member at Before and After School Care, and now as a parent. My children are thriving here now just as I did."

Parent of Prep, Year 3 and Year 4 Students