Help for parents as quarter million kids get ready to start school

23 October 2014

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Around 250,000 four and five-year-olds starting school next year will have their readiness to start school measured by the Australian Early Development Census (AEDC), but The Benevolent Society believes more must be been done to address the vulnerabilities identified in the previous round.

“We know that one in five Australian children were found to be developmentally not ready for school in the last Census. This means that they lacked the social, emotional, language or communication skills to cope,” says Director of Professional Practice, Greg Antcliff.

“There is a lot that parents can do at home to support their children’s development, and it’s not just about helping them to learn their numbers and ABC’s.”

“Actually, the most important skills children need to learn to do well at school are to be able manage their own emotions and to have the social skills to form good relationships with teachers and other students.”

Using the expertise of its staff who work with children and families, The Benevolent Society has created easy to follow guidelines on School Readiness and helpful tips for parents on Preparing for School.

  • For example, to cope socially and emotionally at school and be ready to learn children need to be able to:
  • name and talk about what they are doing – this makes them interesting and predictable to other children
    appropriately express their emotions and deal with conflict and frustration without hitting or hurting others
  • cope with disappointment and learn to be happy at other’s success
  • cooperate with care givers and children without temper tantrums
  • seek out adults to help them cope with their emotions

Simple tips to help build your child’s social skills include:

  • encourage participation in group games, support cooperative play and friendship building
  • play games at home, like board games, to help teach children how to take turns
  • teach your child introduction techniques so they are able to approach other people and confidently make friends.

"It’s vital we address this in Australia because one in five children are not developmentally ready for school, according to the Australian Early Development Census (AEDC), so more than 50,000 children are likely to start behind,” says Greg Antcliff.

On current AEDC figures, about 9% of children starting school have poor social skills and low self confidence and nearly 8% are anxious, unhappy, aggressive or hyperactive. This means that up to 27,000 children start school each year unable to cope socially or emotionally.

But The Benevolent Society’s work in child care centres with the Partnerships in Early Childhood program shows that with the right kind of support these children can become resilient and thrive at school.

“Our work, especially with vulnerable children and families, focuses on strengthening the social and emotional skills of young children so that they are able to understand and control their own emotions; make friends easily; focus on learning, and communicate well with adults and other children,” says Greg Antcliff.

Children who miss out on support like this in the early years can find it difficult to learn and socialise. Australian and international research has established that early action improves education and employment outcomes and reduces future welfare dependency and crime.

“We keep measuring social and emotional vulnerability, but there’s no concerted effort to fund programs like this one which is effective at helping to reduce those vulnerabilities in children. The sensible approach would be to increase the use of programs like PIEC in areas of identified high vulnerability,” says Greg Antcliff.

“We urge the Productivity Commission into Childcare and Early Childhood Learning to consider the impact on our future prosperity of its recommendations. The Federal Government must make a long term commitment to the National Partnership Agreement on Universal Access to Early Childhood Education—specifically the provision of 15 hours of preschool access for all 4 year olds, and include more resources to help educators support emotional and social development for vulnerable children,” concluded Greg Antcliff.

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