The Special Education Update is working across the whole education system and with sector partners to strengthen inclusion and modernise learning support. Education Gazette will shine a light on a number of local improvement projects throughout the year. In this issue, we meet those involved in the Canterbury ‘Kua rite mātou – We are ready’ project, which aims to smooth school transitions for young children in the region.
The Canterbury ‘Kua rite mātou – We are ready’ project is about creating a framework to improve early education for children with additional learning and behaviour needs.
The framework supports parents, whānau and the teachers involved as the children transition from early childhood education to school.
The framework was developed by Resource Teachers of Learning and Behaviour (RTLB), the Kidsfirst Kindergarten Association and the Ministry of Education.
Members of the project team consulted with teachers working in schools and early childhood education facilities as the team developed the resources to support the project.
Ministry district manager Lukas Swart and service manager Juanita Davidson have been working with RTLB and other sector partners on the project, the first phase of which focuses on children who are currently receiving additional learning and behaviour support through the Ministry of Education.
At the same time, RTLBs are supporting the transition of 10 children from Kidsfirst Kindergartens in the region.
This project came about from a desire to improve the transition from early childhood education into primary school, for children with additional learning and behaviour needs.
Juanita says parent feedback received by the Ministry informed the direction of the project.
“Parents made it clear that they wanted to be more involved in the decisions about how their children transitioned from early childhood education into primary school,” she says.
“The ‘we’ in ‘we are ready’ has been really important to us. The ‘we’ includes the child, parents and whānau, the early childhood and school teams as well as any support agencies involved.”
Juanita and Lukas explain that the passing on of information is a key part of a smooth transition from early childhood education to primary school.
Primary schools have historically reported a dearth of information about the additional needs of students before they enter as a new entrant.
“In the past, parents may have felt reluctant to share information with the school, because they’ve wanted to give their child the best possible start – without any pre-judgement. So there was clearly a gap in the information provided to schools by early childhood centres and parents,” says Lukas.
“Identifying the child’s strengths and areas for development informs decisions around the additional support they will need.
“This enables a smooth transition,” he says.
The ‘Kua rite mātou – We are ready’ framework brings together a team to support the transitioning child.
A CIRCLE OF WELLBEING AND ACHIEVEMENT
Juanita says there has been a lot of anecdotal feedback about the project from the parents, schools and early childhood centres involved.
“Parents have told us they’re really enjoying the process of being involved in the decision-making processes around these transitions, and they are feeling heard.”
She says the schools are responding positively to the assessment framework or tool that has been developed for the project.
The Circle of Wellbeing and Achievement has been influenced by a model that originated in Scotland, and was developed here by the Education Review Office: Desired outcomes for student wellbeing.
The key competencies of The New Zealand Curriculum and the principles and strands of Te Whāriki are aligned in the Circle of Wellbeing and Achievement.
“Although we’ve known for some time about the connections between these two curriculums, by using our framework we’ve made it explicit in the way that we share the information about the child,” says Juanita.
“Parents are able to talk about their child using the more familiar language of Te Whāriki, and school teachers can connect these to the key competencies of The New Zealand Curriculum.
“By using the same language, we can more easily plan goals and strategies to support the transition.
“I believe this is why we’re getting great feedback from teachers and schools,” she says.
“The Circle of Wellbeing and Achievement is a core part of the profile document we develop for each child. We map core strengths and support needs of the child and team. This way, a very specific and tailored support plan is developed,” says Lukas.
“The strength of the circle is in the robust conversations it encourages.”
The Circle of Wellbeing and Achievement. This diagram has been adapted from and influenced by the following:
Desired outcomes for student wellbeing. In Education Review Office. (2015). Wellbeing for Children’s Success at Primary School. New Zealand, Crown copyright.
Helen Aldwell is a Resource Teacher Learning and Behaviour (RTLB) cluster manager for 63 schools in the Canterbury region, and has been involved with the We are ready project since its inception.
While RTLB staff do not usually work with children in the early learning sector, she says the involvement with this project has so far been very positive.
“Our service starts at year 1 and goes through to year 10. But with the We are ready project, we have an opportunity to be closely involved with new students who are moving from ECE to primary education, and to provide our schools with the support they need to ensure it’s a smoother process for everyone involved.
“The feedback has been anecdotal at this stage – but it’s been very good. The schools have felt supported. The parents have felt supported. And we know too that the RTLBs have really appreciated the process and extra support that the project offers.”
Helen says RTLB staff have been enthusiastic about and proactive in contributing to the Circle of Wellbeing and Achievement tool that is integral to the project.
“We’ve found the circle to be a really comprehensive and inclusive tool to help us in our work,” she says.
“It’s special because it encompasses both The New Zealand Curriculum and Te Whāriki in its objectives, and it offers a nice discussion starter for parents, primary schools, and early learning services to work with.
“The tool has allowed us to create a more holistic plan for students, families and schools as they go through the transition phase – it’s not just about their literacy and numeracy, but so much more,” she says.
“It’s given parents and whānau more agency in the process – they’ve told us they feel more included and empowered.”
STREAMLINING THE SERVICE
Maree Grant is an RTLB who is working within the We are ready framework every day in her work with schools and early childhood services.
“This project is my particular passion – I’ve been doing a lot of work around this,” she says.
She echoes Helen Aldwell’s praise of the Circle of Wellbeing and Achievement Tool, which she says leads to a much more collaborative method of gathering data about an individual child.
“From my RTLB perspective, this model has given us the opportunity to have a better, more definite relationship with those other people involved in a school transition for children with additional needs.
“For instance, we can now go into the kindergartens and meet the children and their whānau a lot earlier than we would have with the previous system.
“It’s altogether more collaborative. As an RTLB we certainly hear the parents’ voice a lot earlier than we would have in the past.
“So this new model has given us clarity in our work and streamlined where and how we can work together.”
By Melissa Wastney
The plan begins with the early identification of children with additional learning and behaviour needs well in advance of their transition to school.
The four key priorities of the project are as follows:
Early identification – recognition of those children with additional learning and behaviour needs, six months prior to when they will start school.
Families/whānau empowered – whānau sharing aspirations and expectations for their child’s transition, and a single point of contact is established for them.
Tailored support – a strength-based transition plan is co-constructed and supported by relevant documentation.
Collaborative partnerships – teams work collaboratively to clarify roles and responsibilities and consider the flexible use of supports and resources.