Education News, Features

Transitioning to a new year level in Primary School

The end of the academic calendar is on the horizon and with it comes Christmas and the joy of the summer holidays. This time of year also brings change, writes Mr Mark Pearce, Deputy Head of Primary – Learning Transformation, The Lakes College.

Change can make us feel unsure, nervous, even a little worried about what might happen next as we leave familiar friends and teachers and look towards new ones in 2024.

Transitioning to a new year level in Primary School is a significant milestone in a young person’s life. It brings about various changes, including shifts in friendships, new teachers, cognitive growth and emotional development. This period can be both exciting and challenging for both children and parent/carers. Understanding the transition process and offering appropriate support can help children embrace the changes and thrive in their new environment.

At the The Lakes College our process involves the following steps:

1. Notice to families that class allocations will occur by the end of Term 4

2. Inviting families to provide any information to the Head of Primary that may be considered for class placement

3. Student sociograms whereby each students identifies peers they would like to be placed with for the next academic year

4. Year level consideration and class design.

As educators we are experts in the learning and progress of our young people. We work with our students every day and understand individual strengths and areas for development. Friendships are an important consideration when placing students in new classes, both as an opportunity to feel connected to known peers and as a chance to make new friends and have a ‘rest’ from others.

Here at the College we invite families to provide any details that may help us support the placement of their child for the next academic year. The provision of this information is invaluable and while we may not always be able to grant individual requests, these do support the process involved.

What we might expect during transition

Changes to Friendships: Year level transitions often lead to changes in social dynamics. Children may find themselves in different classes, separated from close friends, or forming new bonds with classmates they did not interact with previously. While some children adapt well to these changes, others might feel anxious or even lonely. Parents and carers should listen attentively to their child’s feelings and experiences during this time, offering comfort and encouragement.

Each year level regularly engages in collaborative learning as an opportunity for all students to familiarise themselves with their year group. Playtimes, whole year level activities and social activities outside of school provides opportunities for students to remain connected with existing friends and strengthen new relationships. A focus on the classroom as a collaborative learning space may help distinguish between when we work with others to learn and when we play and chat with our favourite friends.

New Friendships: Transitioning to a new year level provides children with opportunities to form new friendships and broaden their social circles. Encouraging open-mindedness and providing opportunities for social interaction can help children develop new relationships. Parents and carers can arrange playdates or extra-curricular activities to foster these connections.

New Teachers: We all remember a favourite teacher, or someone we are already familiar with as a result of previous interactions with an older child. Each student is an individual and each student creates their own, unique relationship with their teacher. New teachers can be a source of both excitement and apprehension. Parents and carers can support their children by discussing the positive aspects of having a new teacher, such as the chance to learn different teaching styles and gaining fresh perspectives. Reinforcing the idea that change is a natural part of life can help ease their concerns.

Cognitive Growth and Emotional Development: Year level transitions often coincide with periods of significant cognitive growth and emotional development. Children are exposed to more complex subjects and challenges that contribute to their intellectual and emotional maturity. Parents and carers should encourage their children to embrace new learning opportunities and provide guidance when necessary.

What parents can do to support transition

Open Communication: Maintain open and honest communication with your child about their feelings and experiences. Listen actively and validate their emotions, reassuring them that it’s normal to feel a mix of excitement and nervousness during transitions.

Familiarisation: If possible, visit the new classroom before the transition either after school one day or during our staff week at the commencement of Term 1. Familiarity can reduce anxiety and help children feel more at ease in their new environment. Many of our teams are already working with some of young people who may require additional support with the transitioning process.

Parents and carers are encouraged to meet their new class teacher. Arrive with your student, introduce yourself to your class teacher. Pop in at the end of the day for a quick chat. Getting to know our educators is an important part of building our community and connection as partners in the learning and development of our young people.

Routine and Structure: Consistency is essential during times of change. Stick to regular routines at home to provide a sense of stability for your child. Ensuring we arrive on time for the first few days of the new school year can help reduce the stress of being the last one into a new classroom.

Encouragement: Praise your child for their resilience and efforts during the transition. Recognise their achievements, no matter how small and provide positive reinforcement.

Growth mindset: No one is a stranger here, just a friend we have not yet met. A growth mindset and a little grit and resilience can go a long way when transitioning into anything new and unfamiliar. Share a personal experience of your own, a time when you have felt unsure and the things you did to help yourself get through it. Recognising the big feelings of our little people is a good first step in building a growth mindset.

Empower Independence: Encourage your child to take ownership of their school supplies and responsibilities. This empowerment fosters confidence and a sense of control over their environment.

Research indicates that successful transitions contribute to positive academic and social outcomes. Supportive home environments during transitions are linked to better emotional wellbeing and improved academic performance. The support and positive encouragement of parents and carers in the transition process can help children navigate the changes more effectively.

How to talk to your children about transition:

Be Empathetic: Show understanding and empathy for their emotions, acknowledging that transitions can be challenging

Be Positive: Highlight the positive aspects of the transition, such as making new friends and exploring exciting subjects

Answer Questions: Address any concerns your child may have by answering their questions honestly and age-appropriately

Encourage Expression: Encourage your child to express their feelings and thoughts about the transition through writing, drawing, or talking.

The exciting opportunities transition provides for our students is a far cry from my one-teacher school out in Jericho. Like the rising of the sun, Miss French – the protagonist of many of my most referenced stories – led our one-teacher-all-ages-classroom … year in … year out. How fortunate that here, at The Lakes College, we are afforded the opportunity for transition to allow for new friendships, new teachers, academic and emotional development. The vital role you as parents and carers play in supporting your children during this time by communicating openly, fostering independence, encouraging resilience and offering reassurance will ensure we embrace the positives and acknowledge the challenges, so your children thrive and look forward to the new school year.

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