Giant leap to ‘big’ school

Vuyolwethu Ndongeni

PRIMARY schools across Nelson Mandela Bay this month are interviewing families with children hoping to start Grade 1 next year. But what happens if your child is not ready to make the transition?

Although pre-primary school children completing Grade R are often ready to start Grade 1, sometimes they are not and parents need to prepare them to make the adjustment.

As schools commence with interviews for children to begin school in January, Philippa Fabbri suggests that these interviews are a good idea.

Fabbri is director, Special Educational Needs coordinator and remedial therapist at Elsen Academy. She is also a committee member of the Southern African Association for Learning and Educational Differences (Saaled).

She said: “If a problem is detected early on [during the interview] it gives parents time to get intervention. Early intervention is key.”

When a child advances to Grade 1, they are expected to perform certain skills easily.

“For example, a child should be able to separate easily from their parent and be able to dress and feed themselves, be toilet trained and be able to work independently, to a point.

“They must show appropriate play and social interaction as well as age appropriate speech and language,” Fabbri said.

“The child must show interest in wanting to learn to read and do sums, ask logical questions about the world and also show independence by wanting to do things on his or her own.

“If parents have a hunch that something might be wrong, don’t adopt a ‘wait and see’ approach. You will be wasting valuable time,” she cautioned.

“Get the child properly assessed by the relevant professionals, that is, an educational or clinical psychologist who can conduct school readiness assessments,” Fabbri urges.

She said it was important that parents accepted the recommendations made and cooperated with the professional.

Parents would need to be there for the child and dedicate time doing tasks that will benefit the child’s progress.

“Parents can also assist by spending quality time with their child, playing games, doing puzzles and reading stories,” she said.

Although the child must show competence in different areas like reading, communication, maths, motor and personal skills, they do not need to excel in all those areas.

“A child may not perform equally well on all the aspects of the school readiness test. There generally will be areas of strength and weakness.”

Fabbri also delivered advice for schools that may not conduct the initial interview to gauge a child’s competence in school readiness.

She said teachers and parents would need to look out for “delayed speech and language, separation anxiety and also inappropriate social behaviour.

“The child will not be able to do basic skills like colouring in and cutting out, and the gross and fine motor skills will not be age appropriate.”

At this stage, she said, “hearing and eye tests must always be done annually”.

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