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When is a second year of preschool or kindergarten beneficial?

Early learning

Starting school is a major milestone for children and a smooth transition from kindergarten or preschool makes things a lot easier.

As we know, children develop at different rates and it’s not uncommon for a child to reach the end of their preschool year but still not quite be ready for school.

We’ve written before about the holistic view teachers take to determine a child’s school readiness, and equally there are a number of signs which may indicate that a child would benefit from a second year of preschool prior to starting school.

“Deciding on a second year of preschool is a big decision and not one we take lightly,” says Tom Brien, teacher at Goodstart Mona Vale.

“It’s so important that children have the foundational skills they need to make a confident transition to school, as we know that children who start school behind can have a hard time catching up.

“The communication between teachers and the family unit is really important in making a decision that will get the best outcome for the child.”

Mr Brien stresses there’s no ‘one size fits all’ criteria for school readiness. Rather, it’s about looking at a child’s development and progress and deciding with parents whether there are any potential vulnerabilities that are of concern.

The ability to self-regulate their emotions
Self-regulation of their emotions is an important area to assess,” continues Mr Brien.

“I want to be confident a child can identify how they’re feeling and then be equipped with the tools and strategies to regulate their emotions in appropriate ways, most of the time.

“Self-regulation can look different for each child, but my fear for children who haven’t developed this skill strongly is that they’ll regress or become lost because they’re not equipped to navigate the sorts of challenges they’ll face in school.”

Outside of the ability to self-regulate, Mr Brien says there are a few other signs which can indicate a second year of preschool may be beneficial.

Being able to navigate social problem-solving scenarios
“Within this area of a child’s development I’m looking for their ability to show flexibility, negotiate, and advocate for themselves within social situations.

“I’m conscious of each child being exposed to these types of social problem-solving scenarios or moments of inevitable social conflict in the school environment, so we want to equip them with the skills to navigate this arena confidently.”

A developing sense of empathy
“This is an area that I am quite passionate about as a preschool teacher, as I believe that a strong and well-developed sense of empathy puts each child in a great position to further develop into a mindful and compassionate global citizen.

“These soft skills arguably constitute the skillset most required by our next generation of professionals.”

Developing literacy skills
“Here, I look for a developed interest in exploring letters, words, sounds, rhymes and language.

“It is a very common misconception that a child should possess the ability to read and write their name before going to school.

“However, what I’m looking for in children is a desire to explore and have fun with language, rhyming, phonics (the sounds of letters and words) and beginning to write numbers and letters independently.”

Self-confidence and resilience
“These are key elements of a child’s development that I place high priority on in their readiness for the next step of their learning journey.

“A child’s ability to persist through moments of frustration, confidently make independent decisions and celebrate their own successes places them in an ideal position for this next step in their learning journey and indeed their life.”

Communication between teachers and parents is key
Discussing your child’s progress with your teacher throughout the year, and not just as school approaches, is key to making an informed decision about transitioning to school.

“I encourage and seek regular discussions with parents. It keeps us on the same page and helps us to understand the full context of the child’s development,” says Mr Brien.

“This is also really effective in helping identify any areas of concern early, and putting strategies in place to really amplify skill development in those areas.

“These frequent conversations, along with ongoing monitoring of the child’s progress are crucial in helping us make the right decision for each individual child.

“Children learn and develop at their own pace, and sometimes in the right circumstances an extra year of preschool can be beneficial and we see some beautiful examples of this each year in our centre.

“With support from their teacher and parents, we see many children go from being shy and timid to being a leader within their room and taking the younger children under their wing.

“Their confidence grows and when it’s time to transition to school, they’re ready.”
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