Transition to School Resource

Starting school is an important milestone in any child and family’s life. For families of children with developmental delay or disability, transition to school requires additional thought, time, planning and support to make the process as smooth and as positive as possible.


 

Forming a transition team

Why is forming a team important?

Forming a team is important in order to:

  • help your child’s transition to school to be coordinated and organised
  • work out who will take on which roles
  • develop and work on shared priorities and goals
  • make sure information about your child’s strengths and needs is shared
  • help you know about and understand the options available to your child

In order for your transition team to work effectively, it is helpful to decide on the roles and responsibilities of each team member. These roles will vary from one child and family to another. Roles may change during the transition to school process.

Forming a transition team

Your family is at the centre of the transition to school process. A good working relationship with the school and other support professionals is one of the most important factors in a successful transition to school.

You can decide who you would like to assist you to plan your child’s transition to school. Some people may attend planning meetings. Others, such as professionals from a diagnostic and assessment service, may only provide information to help with the planning process.

You may like to include someone from your child’s:

  • early childhood intervention (ECI) service
  • early childhood education and care (ECEC) service (e.g. preschool or day care)

You may also choose to draw on the experience of other parents you have met along the way.

The school also has members on your child’s transition team. School representatives may include:

  • school staff such as the principal and/or class teacher
  • support staff associated with the school system's transition process

Your family

As parents or carers, you know your child the best. Sharing your knowledge of your child’s strengths and needs can assist the new school with planning for your child.

Other ways you can be involved in the transition team:

  • making a decision about what type of school you feel will best suit your child
  • finding out about and visiting the schools you are considering
  • completing and returning the application and/or enrolment form
  • leading the planning process or nominating a trusted professional to take the lead
  • providing written and/or verbal information about your child’s interests, strengths and needs. See also "a snapshot of my child"
  • talking about and preparing your child for the new school environment
  • taking your child to orientation visits at the school

It is possible that you may be still be waiting for confirmation of a placement at your preferred school. If this is the case, talk to your team about arrangements and steps you can take to begin preparing your child.

Your early childhood intervention (ECI) service

If your child has received support from an ECI service prior to school, you may like someone from this service to be on your transition team.

There may be one person who has worked with your child and family over a period of time and knows your child and family well. They may have worked with you to develop an Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP) and worked with your child at home and/or in their early childhood education and care (ECEC) setting.

This person, who some services refer to as a “key worker”, may be the best person to support you and your child in the transition process.

They could offer support by:

  • talking to your child about school: what it will be like, what they will do at school and who they can approach for help
  • talking with you about:
    • your goals and vision for your child’s education
    • your thoughts and questions about schools
  • accompanying you on visits to look at possible schools
  • assisting you to complete application and/or enrolment forms
  • attending:
    • transition to school planning meetings with you
    • orientation visit/s to the school with your child and you
  • providing programs which support you to help your child to develop school readiness skills
  • discussing your child’s strengths, needs and strategies to support their learning with school staff


Early childhood education and care (ECEC) Service

Examples of an ECEC Service is preschool or day care teacher or carer.

If your child has been attending preschool or child care, their teacher or carer may be a useful person to have on your team.

In ECEC settings, children are encouraged to become as independent as possible, follow a daily routine, and interact with other children. These are skills that will be useful at school. A preschool or child care teacher will know how your child manages these activities and how they respond in a larger group of children.

Your child’s teacher or carer may have developed specific strategies which are already working to support your child’s learning. Sharing what has worked for a child in one setting can assist the school greatly in understanding how to best support your child.

They could offer support by:

  • talking with you about your thoughts and questions about schools
  • attending transition planning meeting/s
  • inviting school staff to visit their setting to observe your child
  • if needed, providing written information about your child’s learning through a brief written report


Diagnostic and Assessment Service

It can be helpful to have had some form of assessment in the year before your child starts school. Assessments may be formal or informal and may be completed by a:

  • paediatrician
  • psychologist
  • speech pathologist
  • occupational therapist
  • physiotherapist

Click here for more information on assessments.

Assessment information can assist in planning for your child’s transition to school by:

  • describing your child’s developmental delay or disability in professional terms
  • confirming their eligibility for certain programs such as support classes or special schools
  • describing their needs and the types of supports that may assist in the school environment

Assessment reports may also include information from questionnaires you have completed about your child or discussions the assessing professional has had with you about your child’s development and progress.


Support Staff associated with the school system


There are a number of support professionals who may become involved in the transition process. The support staff vary between educational systems. Before your child starts school, below are the most likely support staff to be involved:

NSW Department of Education (public schools)  Catholic systemic schools Independent schools
  • School counsellor
  • Itinerant support teacher (early intervention)
  • Learning and support Teacher
  • Education officers
  • Guidance officers and/or Itinerant support services, including special education teachers, who provide consultative support to classroom teachers
  • Each school will have different support staff
  • May include a school counsellor or special education teacher
  • The Association of Independent Schools has special education consultants who can provide consultancy support to the teacher once the child is enrolled in that school

 

Support staff could help by:

  • talking with you about your child’s strengths and needs
  • talking with early childhood intervention professionals about the strengths and needs of the child
  • visiting your child in their ECEC setting
  • attending transition to school planning meeting/s
  • visiting your child in their school setting once your child starts


School staff


Initially, the school principal and/or assistant principal will be your main contacts in the school. Once your child’s teacher has been identified, they may be included in the transition team. However, it is possible that you may not know who will be your child’s teacher until your child starts school.

School staff could offer support by:

  • arranging transition to school planning meeting/s
  • allocating time for staff to participate in transition planning
  • receiving information from parents as well as from professionals who have worked with your child
  • completing any funding applications
  • allocating funding to support your child’s participation in the school
  • liaising with any support staff within the school system or outside (e.g. early childhood intervention or early childhood education and care professionals)

See the Who is who at school? section of the website for more information on staff roles in schools.

Preparing for transition meetings

What are transition to school meetings?

Once your child’s enrolment has been accepted, a transition to school meeting is held.

Transition to school meetings:

  • are to plan for your child starting school
  • provide valuable opportunities to:
    • meet with key people involved in the transition process
    • discuss your child’s support needs
    • clarify what needs to happen to make starting school as successful as possible
  • usually happen face-to-face
  • can take place via video or teleconference or email as a practical alternative


Who usually attends?

You attend this meeting, and you may like to invite:
  • a support person to take notes, and be an “extra set of ears”
  • any early childhood intervention (ECI) practitioners who have worked with your child and family
  • your child’s early childhood education and care (ECEC) educator

The school representatives may include:

  • the principal
  • class teacher/s
  • school counsellor

You may wish to ask in advance who is likely to be attending and what the roles of these people are.

See the Who is who at school? section of the website for more information about staff roles.

What is my role as a parent in the meeting?

You should be at the centre of the transition plan as you know your child best. Your role is to make sure people know and understand:

  • information about your child’s personality and strengths
  • your vision for your child
  • what is important to you in relation to your child starting school

During the meeting, you may come up with new questions or thoughts about your child’s transition to school which you may like to raise during the meeting so that the people there can provide answers for you.

What usually happens in transition planning meetings?

  • the school principal often arranges and hosts the meetings before your child commences school. It is also usually the school principal who runs the meeting on the day
  • several people will have information to share about your child’s strengths and needs, so it is important that the person running the meeting allows all these voices to be heard
  • you will be given the opportunity to share information, thoughts and feelings from your family’s perspective
  • the principal may have some forms that need to be completed and will ask you some questions in order to do this


How can parents and the team plan to make transition to school meetings successful?

  • do some preparation prior to meetings
  • agree on an agenda
    • what is the purpose of the meeting? (e.g. to determine the transition plan, roles and responsibilities)
    • how much time is being made available?
    • what is each member expected to contribute?
  • make sure particular concerns or questions you have are included on the agenda so that participants can prepare to respond


Some questions you may wish ask:

  • what types of activities will be put in place to help my child become familiar with the school?
  • how will information about my child be shared with the school staff?
  • when are the school’s general orientation days?
  • would it be beneficial for my child have a gradual transition to school?

Having a clear agenda and agreed expectations will lead to a more successful meeting that builds relationships and achieves successful outcomes.

You may also find it helpful to review the following information on What to find out about school.

What might I be asked about my child at the transition meeting?

Generally questions in NSW Department of Education meetings will focus around 5 main areas also known as “domains”:

  1. Curriculum (Key Learning Areas): how the curriculum and teaching methods may need to be individualised and modified for your child in order to achieve the outcomes set out in the syllabus documents
  2. Communication: including your child’s ability to communicate their wants and needs with others (expressive communication) and your child’s ability to understand language used by others (receptive communication)
  3. Participation: social competence (your child’s ability to interact with others and participate in the school) and safety (what strategies are needed to maintain your child’s safety)
  4. Personal Care: hygiene, eating and dietary and health care procedures which are needed (e.g. toileting, feeding, medical needs)
  5. Movement: mobility, positioning and fine motor skills which may impact on your child’s participation in learning activities


What if I am unsure of the process or of language used?


You may find that language used by the school system is different to what you have been used to in ECI or other settings. Just like families have their own familiar ways of talking to each other, all settings have their own “jargon”.

It is your right to ask people to explain what they mean if they use words, ideas or concepts that you don’t understand.

What happens next?

You can ask what you can expect to happen after the meeting and when you can expect any follow up actions to occur. Sometimes another meeting is planned to discuss progress on the transition plan.

The importance of sharing information about your child

The importance of sharing information about your child

In addition to the information you provide, the early childhood intervention (ECI) practitioners and early childhood education and care (ECEC) educators who know your child can also provide information that will assist the school to plan for your child.

They can provide information about:

  • how your child learns and participates in a group setting
  • ways they have adapted and adjusted their programs to make sure your child is included

By sharing this information with the school:

  • important knowledge and skills about what helps your child to be involved in his/her class are not lost
  • it may be possible to prevent some challenges arising, by learning from what has been in place in the past

 

Frequently asked questions

Q. I am worried about who will have access to information. How can I make sure that confidentiality is assured for my child?

A. All early childhood education and care and early childhood intervention professionals and staff employed by schools are bound by a code of conduct which reflects the Privacy Act. This includes a responsibility to keep all information about children confidential and only to share information with others with permission from parents.

Parents should be asked to sign a “permission to contact” form which enables professional/s to communicate with your child’s teacher by phone or email. You will need to list the names of all the professionals who you give permission to contact the teacher (e.g. preschool teacher, physiotherapist, psychologist).

Q. Wouldn’t it be better for the new school to get to know my child without any preconceptions and develop their own strategies?

A. Research, including feedback from many families and professionals, shows that when information is shared and everyone works together, transition to school is more successful.

For more information about how to share information about your child with the new school, see the website section What do I know about my child?

The "Snapshot of my Child" is a brief template you can fill in to tell your child's new teacher the most important things about how your child learns.

The NSW Department of Education also has a more detailed "Transition to School Statement" template which includes sections which can be completed by families and early childhood education and care staff to share information about your child with your child's new school.

Click here to view the NSW Department of Education transition to school resource.

Assessments and starting school

Assessments and starting school

Frequently asked questions

Q: What is an assessment for?

A: Assessments can:

  • help to clarify areas of learning strengths and needs
  • confirm the diagnosis of a disability

While assessments can provide useful information about a child’s skills and development, it is important to note that assessment scores have limitations.

Assessments do not accurately reflect:

  • the full range of your child’s current skills and abilities
  • what your child may be capable of in the future
  • your child’s personality and temperament
  • progress your child may have made

Although completing a formal assessment is not an essential requirement in order to attend a local public school, it can provide some useful information.

Q: Why might certain assessments be recommended in the year before my child starts school?

A: Your child might be asked to have an assessment to:

  • assist with planning for school
  • assist school staff to plan for your child’s individualised school curriculum and learning environment
  • help you think about the most appropriate learning environment for your child
  • support an application for a school or support class which has eligibility criteria based on a particular diagnosis, for example a moderate intellectual disability
  • provide valuable information about changes in your child’s skills over time
  • provide information on your child’s diagnosis and cognitive level in order to apply for some school options (e.g. support classes)


Q: What type of assessments are there?


A: Assessments of a child’s development may include a combination of methods such as observation (e.g. watching how your child behaves and relates), and the use of “standardised” testing (developmental and intelligence assessments are often used prior to starting school).

Other types of assessments include:

  • speech and language assessments conducted by speech pathologists which identify a child’s expressive and receptive language skills
  • adaptive behaviour assessments usually conducted by psychologists which assess how a child functions in their daily life
  • vision assessments
  • hearing assessments
  • occupational therapy assessments which may identify types of equipment or changes needed in a school environment such as access to toilets, or information about a child’s fine motor development or sensory processing
  • physiotherapy assessments which may identify a child’s mobility skills and any physical changes which may be needed in a specific school setting such as ramps or rails


Q: What does standardised mean?


A: ‘Standardised’ means that the test being used is given to everyone in the same way. The person assessing your child (assessor) cannot adjust or change the assessment in any way. The reason for doing standardised assessments is so that the results can be compared with children of the same chronological age.

Some of the requirements of standardised tests include:

  • the assessor needs to ask all questions in exactly the same way as the test requires
  • there may be a limited amount of time allowed to complete the test
  • the assessment may only be completed by a professional who is trained to do the test
  • the assessment can only be completed once within a certain period of time (e.g. 1 year)


Q: I am concerned that the psychologist is assessing my child in an unfamiliar place and that he/she doesn’t know my child well. Will this impact on the assessment results?


A: A psychologist will use a standardised assessment which must be given in the same way to all test takers, so that the results can be compared. Assessment results are used together with any additional information you can provide so that the school has access to all the information it may need.

Q: What is likely to happen in an assessment?

A: Some time is spent with parents asking questions about areas such as your child’s:

  • history
  • growth
  • physical movement
  • behaviour
  • play
  • interactions with family members

Usually a child is asked to complete some activities and answer some questions with the person who is assessing him or her. The activities and questions vary based on the child’s age.

Parents may not always be able to be in the assessment room with their child during these activities, because of the requirements of the test. The person assessing your child should, however, provide you with detailed feedback about the results of the assessment.

Q: What happens if my child doesn’t do what he or she is asked to do in the assessment?

A:
It is useful to the assessor to see how a child has responded to their requests in a standardised assessment, even if they are unable to complete the full test. It is not uncommon for young children to have difficulties with completing an intelligence test if they have difficulties in these areas:

  • comprehension (understanding what is said to them)
  • compliance (following an adult’s requests)
  • joint attention (the capacity to share a focus of interest with someone else)

These areas may also have an affect on your child's ability to complete some activities within a standardised developmental assessment. If this is the case, other types of assessments such as an adaptive behaviour assessment, or other means of gathering information about a child’s skills, such as observation and talking to parents (also known as "parental report") may be used.

Helping assessments to go smoothly

Share your knowledge about your child: An assessment process is usually conducted in collaboration with the family and any professionals involved with the child. It may help to make some notes beforehand about any questions you may have or points about what you feel are your child’s strengths and needs.

See What do I know about my child?

Seek input from those who know your child well:

  • ask your child’s early childhood education and care (ECEC) educator (e.g. preschool or day care teacher) to write a brief report providing information about your child at preschool or child care
  • assessment services like to read a report from an early childhood intervention (ECI) practitioner to provide more information about your child’s development

Reduce any anxiety for you and your child:

  • to make your child feel more comfortable, it may help to:
    • talk about what will happen with your child beforehand
    • take along some snack foods, a drink and a familiar comfort toy or object if this helps your child to feel more relaxed
    • keep in mind that the results of formal assessments do not define your child as a person and do not predict all future learning


Q: Where can I get an assessment?


A: Talk to your ECI, GP, Paediatrician or your local community health service about whether an assessment prior to starting school would be helpful and where to go in your local area.

Some assessments are provided through health services and child development assessment clinics around Australia. These are usually free of charge but often have waiting lists.

It is also possible to access assessments privately through a consultant developmental paediatrician and/or psychologist. However, a referral from your GP or community health service may be required.

Q: When is the best time to have an assessment?

A: Ideally between 6 to 12 months prior to school. This can provide time to think through options and discuss them with your family and team. Due to waiting lists for assessments, it may be necessary to contact the assessment service around 6 months in advance.

Some assessments are provided through health services and child development assessment clinics around Australia. These are usually free of charge but often have waiting lists.

When children have a developmental delay, there are two main types of standardised assessments used; developmental tests and intelligence (also known as psychometric) tests.

Question Developmental Assessment

Intelligence test (IQ)

What are some examples of these tests?

Griffith's developmental scales

Bayley's scales of infant development

Stanford Binet (SB)

Wechsler (WPPSI)

When and why are these assessments used?

These assessments:

  • are often used with children around the age of 3 years
  • give a profile of abilities which can assist practitioners to target areas requiring further development
  • provide an opportunity to observe the child's strengths/relative strengths

These assessments:

  • determine a child's potential for learning and their current level of cognitive functioning
  • can show whether there is a difference between a child's ability (what they could do) and their performance (what they do) or whether their difficulties with learning might be due to lower cognitive skills
How are these assessments carried out? Standardised developmental assessments use some play-based activities, observation, information from parents, and structured assessment tasks These tests are completely standardised
What areas do these assessments measure? Language, gross motor, eye hand co-ordination, self-help and problem solving abilities A range of problem solving skills including verbal and visual-spatial reasoning, memory and knowledge
Who does these assessments? Developmental paediatrician or psychologist Psychologist
What do these assessments assess? The rate of development of a young child A child's current level of cognitive functioning and learning potentials

 

Early childhood intervention contacts

Accessing early childhood intervention services in NSW

Across Australia the National Disability Insurance Scheme is currently rolling out.

  • Early Childhood Early Intervention (ECEI) is the approach to providing services for families of children aged birth to six years. 

Click here for more information on the ECEI approach.

Click here to find an ECEI provider in your local area.

Useful Links

Parent Line (Ph. 1300 1300 52). For the cost of a local phone call, the NSW Parent Line (which incorporates the Early Childhood Intervention Info line) can provide information about a range of services for young children and their families in NSW, including those seeking early childhood intervention.

Early childhood education and care services can be found through the My Child website.

Community play groups can be found through Playgroups Australia.

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About Our Company

Starting school is an important milestone in any child and family’s life. For families of children with developmental delay or disability, transition to school requires additional thought, time, planning and support to make the process as smooth and positive as possible.

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