Resources for Families

Getting ready for childcare, preschool or school

07 Nov 2022

Getting ready resource 33

What does the research tell us?

For all children, transitions to childcare, preschool or school can provide exciting opportunities, but also challenges. For children with a disability or developmental delay these opportunities and challenges can be even more significant. Most young children feel comfortable in just a few environments, such as the family home, or the homes of close relatives and family friends. When there is a change in environment, some children feel unsettled or worried. Their family may be experiencing similar emotions. 

On of the early and most significant transitions in a young child's life is the move from the safety, routine and predictability of the family to a childcare or pre-school setting. The transition to primary school is often the next significant transition as the child learns to navigate a much large and diverse school community. 

In 2003, Kagan and Rigby1 considered readiness for pre-school or school in terms of four interrelated components:

  1. children's readiness
  2. the pre-school or school's readiness for children,
  3. the needs of families, and:
  4. communities that provide developmental opportunities for children

They describe this as an equation: 

Ready families + Ready early childhood services + Ready communities + Ready schools = Ready children

Although this interaction between the readiness of the child, family, school and community has been well-understood for over 10 years, many services continue to focus their efforts on the child's readiness through intensive transition programs that typically comprise a weekly centre-based program prior to school entry that focus on acquisition of skills.

The shortfall of these programs is that they fail to address the other key elements:

  • Readiness of families - emotional support, information needs and communication with school staff.
  • Readiness of schools - information and collaboration with families and previous educators.
  • The child's functional learning in natural environments with their peers.

At Noah's Ark we provide a comprehensive program that supports all the elements necessary for a successful transition rather than the more traditional approach that puts all the emphasis on getting the child 'ready'. We use evidence-based strategies for improving transitions for children, their families and the preschools and schools they will be attending2 3 4 .

What do parents say about this approach?

There have been studies conducted that report on parent perceptions of good transition practices that align with our approach5 6. But let's hear from parents who have been receiving services from Noah's Ark Key Workers and participated in our Family Exit Interviews.

Consistent non-judgemental support. Someone on our side to encourage and guide us in our home, in the kinder, and with school transition.

In 2017, over 100 parents were interviewed by a Project Worker to hear their feedback about the way we work. Parents were overwhelmingly positive about Noahs Ark's involvement in the transition to preschool and school. Most families highly regarded the ongoing positive working relationship they had with their Key Worker and valued service delivery in the child and family's natural environments such as kindergarten and school.

Our Key Worker came with me to school as requested and was "my eyes". She helped guide me with funding planning and gave honest feedback when asked.

My child's teacher was very grateful for the transition support.

Many families spoke about how skilled Key Workers were in coordinating and partnering with other services. Parents also reported that the Key Workers expertise in facilitating and supporting transitions to kindergarten and school was really valued.

Our Key Worker offered to help with school transition, and she did meet with the school once, but I felt okay about doing the rest myself All of the support had led to us being prepared for this transition.

The Family Exit Interviews also indicated that Key Workers were responsive to the individual needs of children and families, as the level and type of transition support provided varied in relation to what was requested by parents.

She (Key Worker) met us where we were at and made us aware of everything; all of our options. She built up our resilience and ability to advocate.

For further information about what parents tell us about our programs, read the full Family Exit Interview Report


1  Kagan, S. L., & Rigby, E. (2003). Policy counts: Setting and measuring benchmarks for state policies. Washington, DC: Center for the Study of Social Policy.

2 Dockett, S., & Perry, B. (2003). The Transition to School: What's Important?. Educational Leadership, 60(7), 30-33.

Margetts, K. (2007). Understanding and supporting children: shaping transition practices. Informing transitions in the early years, 107-119.

4 Rous, B., Hallam, R., Harbin, G., McCormick, K., Jung, L. A., Rous, B. S., & Hallam, R. A. (2006). The research base. Tools for transition in early childhood: A step-by-step guide for agencies, teachers, and families,13-23.

5 Ahtola, A., Björn, P. M., Turunen, T., Poikonen, P. L., Kontoniemi, M., Lerkkanen, M. K., & Nurmi, J. E. (2016). The concordance between teachers’ and parents’ perceptions of school transition practices: A solid base for the future. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 60(2), 168-181.

6 Dockett, S., & Perry, B. (2004). What makes a successful transition to school? Views of Australian parents and teachers. International Journal of Early Years Education, 12(3), 217-230.

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