New-entrant classrooms in the re-making

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New Entrants in the Re making cover sm

Pro Bono Charitable Research Fund project

Children transitioning into school are often confronted with formal teaching and learning approaches that contrast sharply with what they have experienced in contemporary early childhood education (ECE) settings.

This research project contributes a perspective on how junior schoolteachers might improve continuity for children moving from ECE to school. The transformation of the new-entrant and year-1 classes at Mairehau Primary School provides powerful insights into what is possible when teachers embrace play as a valid and worthwhile form of learning for young children new to school.

Key findings: 

There are a number of implications for practice for teachers interested in continuity of learning between home, ECE, and school. These include:

  • Allowing children time and space within the classroom timetable to develop a sense of belonging and relationships is likely to support children’s wellbeing and positive attitude towards school.
  • Creating a balance between the priorities of creativity, agency, belonging, relationships, and children’s interests and inquiries, and literacy, and mathematics is possible.
  • Creating this balance for young children by valuing and encouraging purposeful play and authentic inquiries as part of the school day.
  • Recognising that young children bring interests, experiences, and expertise with them to school. They are often most competent when they are able to do some of the ‘driving’ of the programme.
  • Placing a greater emphasis on authentic engagement and agency, and valuing children’s prior-to-school learning and experiences can contribute to children being more settled when starting school.

Finally, the shifts in classroom practices illustrated by this case study owe much to the teachers and school leaders, and the dispositions they hold about their role. Such significant transformation was possible because teachers and school leaders had:

  • the curiosity to seek out new approaches
  • the willingness to rethink their approaches to teaching
  • a belief that adopting the new does not necessitate discarding the old
  • a high level of trust in one another to do what they believe is best for children, and the confidence to give things a go.

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