Yarra Valley Grammar: Making transitioning easy

Yarra Valley Grammar discusses the three major milestones in a child’s educational journey. Offering Early Learning through to Year 12, the School recognises how important these transitions are and works hard to ensure they are as seamless as possible for its students.

The major milestones in a child’s educational journey occur from home into the Early Learning Centre (ELC), ELC into Prep, and Year 6 into Year 7. Here, we look at how students are supported every step of the way.

Home into Early Learning Centre
This is the first step in a child’s journey into school life but, as Head of Junior School, Chris Lawson points out, much of the preparation for school comes from the home.

“Firstly and most importantly, it needs to be stressed that the first learning environment that any child is exposed to is in their home. Parents are their child’s first teachers and it is important to bring up a child in a positive environment.”

At Yarra Valley Grammar, children are assessed in a very informal interview with parents to determine their readiness for the three and four-year-old programs.

“An independent child will generally walk over towards groups of children and watch what they are doing. Sometimes they join in and don’t want to leave. Following directions from me or a parent to come back inside, pack up toys or look at something different is also a positive sign,” Mr Lawson explains.

Early Learning Centre into Prep
One of the advantages of having the ELC on the same campus as the Primary and Secondary Schools is that it allows the youngest students access to many of the aspects of mainstream school. For example, they are able to borrow books from the Junior School Library, have music lessons from one of the music teachers, take swimming lessons in the school’s pool and even experience a Chemistry lesson with VCE Chemistry students. ELC students also regularly visit the different areas of the campus; visiting the Principal, exploring the gardens and native bushland or learning to ride bicycles. All of these opportunities give Yarra Valley Grammar’s ELC children tremendous confidence when it comes time to transition into Prep.

Of course, each child must be assessed as being ready for mainstream school and that process is done in conjunction with the school’s ELC staff.

“Our Prep Orientation program begins with ELC staff making recommendations about readiness for more formal schooling. Children that can demonstrate confidence, sharing and turn taking, patience and ability to listen to others, minor conflict resolution, good concentration, independence skills, recognising names and belongings, and good toileting and hygiene habits are well on the way to making a seamless transition to more formal learning. We refer to these as social/emotional skills,” explains Nicky Callow, Director of Yarra Valley Grammar’s ELC.

In November, the ELC children along with any new students have the opportunity to spend a day in the Prep classrooms over three consecutive weeks. This allows them to meet their teachers, make new friends and immerse themselves in their new environment in preparation for the following year.

Year 6 into Year 7
The transition from Primary School into Secondary School is a very important period for both the student and the school. Yarra Valley Grammar has a 12-step transition process that has been honed over the years in order to make the transition as stress-free as possible.

The program begins with a Fellowship and exploration morning in July to allow students to familiarise themselves with the school and make friends early.

Head of Middle School, Julie Hall, visits all new students at their Primary School. An Orientation Day occurs in November, where students are allocated their class and tutorial teacher and experience classwork, sports and a barbeque. This is designed to make the transition for the following year easier.

“We want to build a strong community and sense of belonging. We seek a lot of feedback from the children to make sure they’re comfortable when they arrive,” explains Mrs Hall.

The transition program addresses the key concerns voiced by Year 6 students. As Mrs Hall notes, “Making new friends, getting lost in a big school, homework and lockers are the big four concerns. It’s important we listen to what they’re telling us so we can put strategies in place to allay those fears.”

At Yarra Valley Grammar we recognise that it is not only a transition period for students but also for their parents. So a new parents welcome evening is organised in November as an opportunity for parents to feel part of the process and part of the school community. Early in the new school year an information evening is held where parents can meet their child’s tutor and have an opportunity to voice any concerns they may have.

Yarra Valley Grammar’s motto is ‘Confidence to Achieve’ and the importance the school places on getting the key transition periods right for its students is at the heart of its objective to give all of its students the confidence to achieve their very best.

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