School transition project set for launch

Derren Hayes
Monday, April 20, 2015

Early years providers are to develop closer working with primary schools in two English regions as part of a pilot project to improve the transition of children into formal education.

The initiative developed by Pacey (the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years) will see four primary schools in North Yorkshire and Cambridgeshire shortly start working with local nurseries and childminders to support parents to get children “school-ready” by the time they start reception in September.

The Starting School Together project aims to help a total of 100 children across both regions and will focus support on those from disadvantaged areas, as research suggests a higher proportion of reception pupils from deprived communities start school developmentally behind their peers, hindering their ability to learn.

The transition from childcare to full-time education can also be an anxious time for parents, with around a quarter surveyed by Pacey saying they felt local authorities and schools provided them with insufficient information about it.

Liz Bayram, chief executive of Pacey, said the initiative also aims to overcome some of the professional barriers that exist between the early years sector and schools.

“Sometimes it is very hard to manage the transition with schools,” she said. “They can speak a different language about what school-ready means.

“We have developed a shared understanding of school-ready, which is children that are confident, happy and ready to learn.”

Bayram added that Pacey’s definition of school-ready is based on “broad child development” markers rather than academic abilities.

Support offered to families will include toys and resources, face-to-face meetings and a secure online forum that will allow parents and professionals to share information about a child’s progress.

With local authorities allocating primary school places last week, Pacey expects the support work to begin in May and run until the end of the first academic term in December, at which point the findings will be independently evaluated.

Bayram said the success of the project – which has been funded through a £350,000 grant from the Department for Education – will be measured by how school-ready children are and whether closer working between childcare providers and schools helps break down professional barriers.

She added: “We want to make sure the knowledge and expertise of the childcare profession is as valued as that of the teaching profession.”

It hopes the approach will then be rolled out as a model of best practice to encourage greater partnership between early years settings and schools across England.

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