This article was published in the NT Suns Newspapers under the title Parents play crucial role on May 7 2019.

Recent research by researcher Amy Graham confirms a long term disconnection between parents and teachers. Ms Graham a PhD student at Charles Darwin University, found that in preparing their children to start school, the prime focus of parents was their literary readiness. Teachers on the other hand “ … just wanted teachable kids.” (Kids not ready for school, Behaviour a Problem: CDU research, Phillippa Butt, Suns Newspapers, 16 April 2019)

Graham’s study confirmed some quite startling results. “My research … shows that teachers find about 62 per cent of children starting school have at least one cause for concern, whether that is their emotional development, social skills, cognitive maturity, physical or literacy development.” (Op cit)

Graham’s research sample was wide-ranging, covering 35 NT and South Australian schools. Significantly, she dealt with children in transition who were into their second term of school, having already experienced ten weeks of settling in activities.

Ninety four percent of parents within the study engaged in literacy activities with their children at least three times each week. While 90% of parents undertook three or more activities each week aimed to boost the self confidence of their preschool aged children, more effort was needed.

The literacy skill and social capability children most need when starting school, is the ability to listen. Listening is often discounted as being of little consequence. Nothing could be further from the truth. From listening grows the ability to think, comprehend and understand the social nuances which support growing up.

A great deal of teacher time during the initial year(s) of school turns from academics to matters of character. Teachers expect to reinforce social and emotional factors of child development but are instead finding they are having to introduce these attributes to children.

Graham found that what teachers rate the highest is “… the child’s ability to self-regulate, be confident … and cope with the new demands of the school environment. That might be simple things like (opening) their own lunchbox …(following) basic instructions like sitting on the mat … or (waiting) for their turn at an activity.” (Op cit)

The general shortfall and lack of social and emotional readiness for school, means teachers have to devote significant time to these developmental needs before settling into academic routines.

Anecdotal awareness suggests that if teachers change initial teaching expectations focussing on this development, children will adjust and catch up on academics.

Graham’s research suggests that parents should take the time to help children develop the personal habits and social skills that will give them a good start in their early years at school.

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