Littlies’ Best Start to big school  

WHILE several kindergarten classes are already under way around the region, a number of schools have been meeting with the new students one-on-one this week before finally joining their classmates on Monday.

More than 20 local schools have begun Best Start testing with each kinder student ahead of their official commencement on Monday.

The Best Start program, an early years initiative run in all public schools statewide, takes the form of a brief interview with students assessing their literacy, numeracy and academic skills. 

Students are given visual, listening and reading exercises where the teacher can identify their individual needs and enable a one-on-one interaction with the student.

Ben Venue Public School principal Wally O’Hara said the assessment process was “not a scary thing and it’s not a test” and assists both the teacher and parents.

“The children were sent an invitation and appointment time and they have been coming in individually with their mums and dads,” Mr O’Hara said.

“It’s a very directed sort of teaching and we repeat the testing later in the year. The parents get a report giving suggestions as to what they can do at home.

“Then later in the year they can see what their child has learned, so it provides lots of feedback for parents.” 

Hillvue Public School executive principal Chris Shaw is expecting about 40 new kinder students on Monday following the Best Start testing at school this week. 

Mr Shaw said the number was slightly up from previous years and this week’s testing  was cementing good connections with the kids.

“It’s a nice way to develop the student teacher relationship before school starts. It’s a wonderful process because it informs teachers and provides parents with valuable information,” Mr Shaw said.

“The parents can meet the teacher and have an informal chat.”

At Tamworth South Public School – where about 125 kinder students start class on  Monday – the Best Start testing has been running smoothly as the kids begin to orientate themselves with their teacher. 

New kindergarten student Jay French sat down with assistant principal Debbie van Aanholt yesterday for a meeting. At first quite shy, Jay soon became very talkative and cheery as he performed several listening, visual and reading exercises.

Mrs van Aanholt said the program was a good way to “keep on track with students to see how they’re going”.

Tintinhull Public School began teaching yesterday with 10 kindergarten students and will instead be running the Best Start teaching next week. Kindergarten teacher Sally Thompson, who will assess the students, said the school’s size meant deferring the interviews would suit better. 

“It’s better to introduce them to the school environment, rather than testing beforehand,” Miss Thompson said.

“It works better for parents as there are a lot of working parents who would have to take time off work to bring them here, so we just do it in school time.”

Kindergarten started yesterday for the 120 new faces at Tamworth Public School and principal Lee Preston said the choice of testing period came down to what suited each school the best.

“We find the confidence is up when they we run the testing after they begin class,” Mr Preston said. “Our community is very accepting of it.”

New England Department of Education and Communities regional director Jim White said the implementation of the testing program was “a full mixture” between schools and he had been impressed with the outcomes.

“Different schools have different arrangements that best suit the student cohort they have,” Mr White said. 

“There is no one-size-fits-all and as a parent, you just need to know you’ve got something there at the very start that’ll inform the teaching. Quite often children in kindergarten are far brighter than we can imagine.”

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