A review of research has sought to identify how teachers, professionals and service providers can better support children at risk of experiencing vulnerability during early years transitions.
The Victorian Department of Education and Training commissioned ACER and the Brotherhood of St Laurence to conduct a review of literature on support for children and families at risk of experiencing vulnerability during their transitions from home, out-of-home care or other programs into early childhood education and care (ECEC) services and school.
The review focused on the support needs of children who have experienced trauma, children living in out-of-home care, refugee children and children who experience intergenerational poverty.
While the support needs of these children and their families are recognised as varying greatly from other children, the review found minimal recent literature specific to early years transitions programs and strategies that have been shown to be effective in supporting children and families at risk of experiencing vulnerability.
Understanding there is no ‘one size fits all’ transition program, particularly given the diverse range of circumstances from which children and families come, the review identified a number of programs and strategies that may assist children who have experienced trauma, children living in out-of-home care, refugee children and children who experience intergenerational poverty.
The role of transdisciplinary networks in supporting these children and their families as they transition into ECEC services and school emerged as a key theme across the programs reviewed. These transdisciplinary networks often include a range of services, such as health and welfare services, ECEC institutions and schools working collaboratively. The review found that such networks not only help with early years transitions but also have a significant impact on longer-term schooling outcomes for children and families at risk of experiencing vulnerability.
A set of recommendations stemming from the literature review centred on the adoption of strategies and practices intended to:
- Identify and attend to children and families at risk of experiencing vulnerability; for example by adding questions regarding areas of vulnerability to existing transition assessment tools, and by undertaking ongoing analysis and reporting of enrolment and attendance in both ECEC programs and school.
- Facilitate partnerships and transdisciplinary networks through publishing case studies showing a range of models of transdisciplinary networks, developing a set of protocols and templates to assist local networks, and facilitating the inclusion of good practice guides in teacher education courses.
- Build professional knowledge, skills and attitudes by establishing reflective practice learning communities specific to each area of vulnerability, promoting the adoption of rapid action-reflection processes, and facilitating input to initial teacher education courses from specialists in early years transitions for children at risk of experiencing vulnerability.
- Foster genuine communication for example by providing accessible alternatives when using online communication channels, and ensuring that all those involved in early years transitions recognise that genuine communication with children and families requires more than information dissemination.
- Curate and commission resources relevant to children and families at risk of experiencing vulnerability; through the development of clear, structured regional roadmaps of existing resources, programs and referral information that identify gaps, and by establishing a register of research in progress.
- Support future research particularly to facilitate evidence-based program development and evaluation, to investigate enablers and barriers to the development of transdisciplinary networks, and to develop a detailed profile of children who are not enrolled in ECEC and the reasons for and impact of non-enrolment.
The literature review preceded the implementation of an associated practice review by researchers from Deakin University that further guides and supports the ECEC and school sectors in maximising the impact of their efforts to support children at risk of experiencing vulnerability during early years transitions. ■
Read the full report:
Early years transitions: supporting children and families at risk of experiencing vulnerability: rapid literature review, by Jacynta Krakouer, Pru Mitchell, Jenny Trevitt and Anita Kochanoff, Victorian Department of Education and Training, 2017.