“I’m learning to go to school now.” Young children’s developing understandings of school.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMasters of Education
In most New Zealand schools, transition to school programmes are introduced based on adult perceptions aimed at avoiding negative experiences and assisting children in a successful transition to school, yet they run the risk of ‘over managing’ a child’s experience. This research considers how young children perceive the up and coming ‘rite of passage’ of ‘starting school’. Through placing an emphasis on ‘children’s voice’, it explores their expectations, feelings and understandings of school before and after starting. The study follows six children (two boys and four girls, aged from 4 years eight months to 4 years ten months at the start of the study) for approximately two school terms on their journey from an Early Childhood Centre to a primary school. A range of ‘child friendly’ methods were used to gather their understandings. Children’s ‘school comments’ were recorded by their mothers during their transition. Interviews were conducted with three teachers regarding their philosophies and practices of starting school.
The findings identified three main themes in children’s initial knowledge about school. The children sourced further knowledge by asking their parents about any concerns or queries as they arose. They also expressed a need to prepare themselves for school. The children gained further understanding of school throughout their transition but did not truly grasp the concept of what school was about until they became ‘school kids’ themselves. The implications of these findings are discussed for transition to school practices.