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Opinion_

7 tips for preparing children for school

19 January 2017
How parents and teachers can help kids do their best

From dealing with anxious kids or those more gifted, to the power of reading: University of Sydney health and education experts share their tips to help parents and teachers kick off the new school year.

“Bullying is unacceptable behaviour, regardless of it being face-to-face or online, there simply is no excuse for it."
Dr Andrew Campbell

1. Dealing with anxiety and bullying

Dr Andrew Campbell, Psychologist, Faculty of Health Sciences:  

“Anxiety about starting school, or returning to school, can happen all too easily. Sometimes it’s about whether a child will ‘fit in’ and sometimes it’s about being understood by others with different interests to them.

“All too often, children worry about returning to school and the chances of being bullied. That’s why it is important to remind your children that if they encounter any form of bullying, that they should never remain quiet about it, as a lot can be done to stop it in its tracks!

“Bullying is unacceptable behaviour, regardless of it being face-to-face or online, there simply is no excuse for it.

“Empower your children to speak up by coming to you or a teacher first. This will help them feel validated for their concern. If they or someone they know is being treated poorly, let them know it is a good thing to do something about it soon so the problem can be rectified before further hurt is caused.”.

2. Getting off to a good start

Professor Robyn Ewing, Professor of Teacher Education and the Arts, Sydney School of Education and Social Work:

“There are many ways parents and educators can help children get off to a good start at school and experience success in the school year – from helping children understand the transition to school, to talking about expectations children (and their parents) might have, to establishing strong teacher-parent relationships, to making sure that communication stays open.

“Learning in and through the Arts – whether it be, for example, fostering creativity and imaginative play, engaging students in learning across the curriculum, motivating reluctant readers – can enable children to develop confidence, discipline, critical thinking, perseverance and problem-solving skills which can enhance their social and emotional wellbeing as well as their academic success during the school year.”

Frustrated student

Without help, children who start school with speech problems face an increased risk of reading problems. Image: iStock.

3. Develop clear speech and encourage reading

Dr Elise Baker, Discipline of Speech Pathology, Faculty of Health Sciences:

“During infancy, children learn to hear and say words. When they start school, they learn to read and write those words. An important foundation for literacy success is clear speech.

“Children’s speech should be clear and understood by others by age four years. If parents are concerned about their child’s speech, the best time to seek help is during the years before school—the toddler and preschool years.  

“Without help, children who start school with speech problems face an increased risk of reading problems. With the right help at the right time, children with speech problems can learn to speak well and read well.”

Associate Professor Alyson Simpson, Associate Professor, English and Literacy Education and Pro Dean (Education), Sydney School of Education and Social Work:

“Children’s literature is a great catalyst for children to learn the skills of reading and writing. More importantly, reading for pleasure is related to habits of the mind that cut across issues of socioeconomic status, support lifelong learning and encourage empathy.”

4. Act now on stuttering

Professor Mark Onslow, Director of the Australian Stuttering Research Centre, Faculty of Health Sciences:

“If your child stutters and is starting school this year, now is the time to act. The school years can be a wonderfully supportive experience for a child who stutters, or they can make it particularly difficult for the child to deal with this speech disorder.

“It is important that you talk to the teacher and your speech pathologist to be sure that they understand your child’s needs and work together to support your child.”

Kids learning maths

Giftedness is easily masked and often misunderstood. Image: iStock.

5. Coaching is not necessarily the best investment

Professor Dianna Kenny, Professor of Psychology, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences:

“Coaching colleges in Australia are self-regulating, which means that they are unregulated and not accountable. They make unsubstantiated claims about their successes, but have persistently refused to allow independent researchers to assess their outcomes.

“The only large study on coaching effectiveness in Australia (conducted by myself) showed that coaching did not bestow any academic benefits on children who were already performing well in school.

“Coaching is time taken away from socialising with peers and family. Social and emotional development and the development of self-regulation have significant impacts on the cognitive development of children. Adult-directed activities deprive children of important opportunities for development.”

6. How to identify giftedness

Shirley Koch, PhD Candidate, Sydney School of Education and Social Work:

“Giftedness is easily masked and often misunderstood. Underachievement is a common problem facing gifted children, their parents and their teachers.

“Early, sensitive and accurate identification is key to providing appropriate ongoing support for gifted children.

“One of the greatest challenges for teachers is understanding the socio-emotional and cognitive needs of gifted children in order to support them and their families.”

7. For teachers, it’s all about collaboration

Dr Michelle Villeneuve, Occupational Therapy Discipline, Faculty of Health Sciences:

“Teachers are getting ready to welcome a new community of learners into their classrooms. But accommodating the diversity of learning needs in one classroom is a big challenge.

“Quality learning can be achieved by optimising joint effort among adults. Collaboration between parents, health care providers and educators can have an important impact on healthy child development, school readiness, and educational achievement.

“Teachers collaborate with a wide range of educational and related service providers to enable students with diverse learning needs to get the most out of school. There are many ways for educators to make more effective use of therapy and other related support services at school so that all learners benefit.”

Annika Dean

Assistant Media and PR Adviser (Humanities and Social Sciences)

Kobi Print

Media and PR Adviser (Health Sciences)