The mere mention of Transition Statements is enough to make even the calmest early childhood teacher groan at the moment. The pressure is now on to produce these documents and many teachers are madly crash studying the EYLF (or if you’re in Victoria the new VEYLF). More recently I have attended a number of conferences where these documents featured amongst key discussions by leaders within our industry and after listening to some very enlightening new perspectives on these issues and after some further reading and reflection, there are three key points which I believe may be helpful for teachers to consider before preparing these reports:
1. Ask yourself: what is the objective of the report?
If we ask ourselves why we are doing these reports and then logically for whom are these reports completed, I believe we are less likely to get lost or overwhelmed by new EYLF documentation guidance materials and terminology, and actually focus our efforts on ensuring we meet the intent of the process. I believe that transition statements are produced for prep teachers to help them to get to know each new child, what they enjoy, their confidence, their approach to learning and finally to give an overview of the potential things that might make the transition to school go smoother. I most certainly do not believe these reports are not intended to be overly theoretical or check-list based, which sadly is how many teachers have and are continuing to approach this task (unintentionally of course). I understand the angst these reports create. Last year our Kindergarten had to produce these statements and we too, with little guidance, produced what we thought was required by the process. We didn't have the benefit of reflection, time or any professional development and launched into the process in a mad dash at the end of the year, unaware till the last minute that we even were required to do the new process. In my opinion, it was a sad waste of time. The theory behind the process is very new and hence, to over compensate for this, many teachers are effectively over analysing the new framework documentation producing documents which are complicated, lengthy rehashed 'new language' statements used in the framework guidelines.
In summary: take a step back from the detail, apply a less is more approach and use concise effective summaries that actually meet the intended objective of helping our Prep teachers transition our students to school. Put yourself in the new Prep teacher's shoes, what type of information would you find valuable and helpful?
2. Don't be boxed in by the guidelines?
Some early childhood experts like Kathy Walker criticise the VEYLF because it 'boxes in' evidence of outcomes/goals into set age groupings. I concur, looking at the criteria, I can personally attest to numerous examples of where individual children's abilities vary widely outside of their 'age groupings'. Remember the VEYLF documentation was put together very quickly and is still very new and it is worthwhile being cautious and critical of its content. It is not gospel (at least not yet anyhow) and it is better to use your own good judgement, more often based on years of experience, than to follow verbatim a program guideline that itself is in its infancy.
3. Concentrate your efforts towards organising a meeting with the new teacher
We are all so time poor and it is understandable that such a task would be difficult, but a personal discussion is so much more helpful than any written report. Kathy Walker argued that when surveyed about the success of the first round of transition statements, most teachers said they would have preferred a meeting to sit down and discuss each child. As we deal with relationships that are actually quite complex and difficult to articulate in a report, there is no doubt in my mind that a meeting would be much more effective at communicating key issues about each child.