Junior infants starting school already know letters, but lack social skills, teachers warn
Not enough play.
As parents, it is only natural that we want to help our children prepare for the big transition starting school is.
However, teachers are now warning we might be focusing on the wrong things.
According to a new study, many children starting junior infants are “over-prepared” in academic skills such as numeracy and literacy. However, teachers express concern and say social, emotional and self-management skills – such as being able to put on their coat, make friends and regulate their emotions – are far more important at this stage.
The findings are contained in the latest Children’s School Lives study, which is following 4,000 children across 189 schools to learn about their experiences.
The research, which focuses on the transition from preschool to primary, was carried out by UCD’s school of education on behalf of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA).
And what the study found, was that there are signs of a “disconnect” between parents and teachers over expectations around learning at preschool and primary level. While many parents and children tend to see “big school” as a place of work rather than play, teachers emphasise social and emotional skills and the importance of play-based learning.
'A lot of what’s been done in the current junior infant class has already been done in the preschool'
“You have children now who are two years in a preschool setting, so they’re coming into junior infants and a lot of what’s been done in the current junior infant class has already been done in the preschool, so there’s complete overlap,” one school principal told the study.
And a teacher pointed out:
“I think what would help, if they could all come in, know how to stack a chair, put on their coat, put away their lunch box. You’d be surprised the amount that come in not knowing that ... I’m not asking any child to be able to come in and read, do sounds. That’s all done in school and it should be done there.”
One of the key findings from the study was that there is a much bigger need for play-based learning, as well as emphasising the need for social and emotional learning to be a more important target.
Dr Seaneen Sloan, a lead researcher on the study at UCD’s school of education. said the findings emphasise the importance of preschool experiences in supporting children’s early learning and development and providing a firm foundation for primary school.
“Our findings demonstrate parents’ appreciation of the preschool services available in Ireland and the funding provided for this through the ECCE [Early Childhood Care and Education] programme."