School readiness: what does it mean for Indigenous children, families, schools and communities?
What we know
• School readiness is a multidimensional construct, recognising the interplay of children’s individual characteristics and the contexts in which they live, and have lived, as they grow and develop.
• School readiness incorporates three major components: – children’s readiness for school – schools’ readiness for children – the capacity of families and communities to provide the necessary opportunities, conditions and supports to optimise children’s development and learning.
• Schools that employ and value Indigenous staff provide ‘ready’ links between school, families and communities which can enhance the transition to school for Indigenous children.
• Positive professional links and regular communication between prior-to-school educators and school educators support children’s transition to school.
• Positive involvement of families and engagement with other community members in Indigenous children’s transition to school are important components of making a school ‘ready’.
• High-quality early childhood education helps prepare children for school.
What doesn’t work
• ‘Lack of readiness’ is not a problem of children being insufficiently skilled to learn at school, but instead it is where there is a mismatch between the attributes of individual children and families, and the ability and resources of the school and/or system to engage and respond appropriately.
• Assessment of Indigenous children through tests based in non-Indigenous culture can reinforce ‘gaps’ in knowledge and skills, rather than building positive images of Indigenous children as learners.
• Approaches to readiness and transition to school that focus only on developing Indigenous children’s skills and not on broader factors such as schools, families and communities do not necessarily lead to improved school success.
What we don’t know
• There is insufficient information on what Indigenous parents and communities understand by ‘readiness for school’.
• There is no national agreement on what is important in terms of readiness for school, how to measure it and what the indicators of readiness might be.
• We don’t know whether United States’ and other international interventions will work in Australia.
• There is no solid evidence of benefits, particularly cost benefits, of many early childhood interventions in Australia.
Image: 'Remote Education, Arnhem Land, Australia', Rusty Stewart / flickr