This week we are delighted to be able to share a guest post by Caroline Lampard-Shedden, who was inspired to write after reading an earlier post about children starting school. Caroline’s background is in primary education. She is currently completing an MA in Early Childhood Education.
My firstborn child made the transition into primary school last September. He had attended a pre-school and been supported, both by them and myself, to prepare for his move to school. He was familiar with the school environment, staff and the majority of his peer group by the time that he started. Day one came and he walked in happily to play and came out equally as bouncy – a success! However, as the term progressed the questions and comments began:
“Why can’t I wear what I want like you?”
“It’s not fair that you choose what you do when I’m at school!”
“I’m not allowed to do it like that at school so why do you say that I can at home?”
These were hard topics to address! I reflected on them in his absence. My son was confused, frustrated and often annoyed at having to understand who he was supposed to be at home and at school. He was discovering that the person that he was at home, the person that he had defined himself as until now, was different from the person that he was expected to be at school. This understandably created tensions.
I began to consider the times when children transition to school, and indeed within school as in a previous post, as times of transitioning identities. I pondered on the emotional impact that such times may have, especially on the youngest children within society. This motivated me to focus on transitions from this perspective for my last university assignment.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) states in Article 12 that “Every child has the right to express their views, feelings and wishes in all matters affecting them, and to have their views considered and taken seriously”. Do we do this as parents and practitioners when it comes to school transitions? When I looked for research around transitions I found the research that had been carried out offered limited input from the voice of the child. Where children were consulted they commented on the pre-existing structures and/or their feelings towards them. From this perspective children are passive participants in transitions – they have little say in how they work or their role in them. Do you think that this is the case? If so, is this something that could be challenged?
Fabian (2007) relates to this time of changing identity and recognises that on starting school children’s identity begins the change from that of a child to that of a pupil. The school readiness agenda is arguably an influential factor that informs this shift. Its intended outcomes and priorities can be seen in the Ofsted survey Are you Ready? Good Practice in School Readiness. Are children’s opinions about school represented within this agenda? After all, an “insight into children’s views of preschool and school is one of the ways of understanding the reality of childhood and life transitions…” (Babić, 2017: 1606).
Perhaps if children were able to have their views about school transitions genuinely listened to, heard and used to inform practice then this may go some way to lessen the tensions experienced by children at this significant time in their lives. Do you think that this would be valuable to future practice?
Such an interesting post, Caroline. We’d love to know what our readers think! Do please add your comments below.