Bridging children's early education transitions through parental agency and inclusion

Dunlop, Aline-Wendy (2003) Bridging children's early education transitions through parental agency and inclusion. Education in the North, 11. pp. 55-65. ISSN 0424-5512

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Studies of transitions in the early years have tended to focus more on the institutional experience and on reporting the views teachers and parents hold of the experience of children, in order to ease the transition, than on how parents themselves experience the transition process. The present paper focuses on the ways in which parents experience their children’s transition from pre-school to primary education in order to identify ways in which their inclusion in this process might enhance their children’s experiences. The paper draws on a longitudinal study of early years transitions undertaken in one local authority in Scotland. The study involved classroom observations, child, parent and teacher interviews, video analysis of classroom discourse, tracking of school approaches to transition as well as interpretation of classroom record keeping, transition records, school reports and curriculum documentation. In particular this paper uses data from the tracking of school approaches and from semi- structured interviews held in the parents own homes. The data were interpreted through SPSS and through NUD*IST(QSR, 1991-2000), so as to capture the statistical as well as the interpretative nature of the responses. It is concluded that early childhood transitions are in fact also family transitions as the family experiences shifts in the child’s identity in preparation for, and on becoming a school pupil, in the child’s status, and in their own roles in their child’s life. There is evidence that educationally active parents enhance their child’s transition to school and support children in the emotional/social and cognitive challenges they face. The implications such findings hold for policy change are considered.