This article focuses on children's transition from preschool to school (kindergarten, kindergarten class, preparation class, reception class or Grade 1). 'The word transition is referred to as the process of change that is experienced when children (and their families) move from one setting to another. It includes the length of time it takes to make such a change, spanning the time between any pre-entry visit(s) and settling-in, to when the child is more fully established as a member of the new setting' (Fabian & Dunlop, 2002a, p. 3). The growing interest on this focus is based on the idea that transition may cause social and emotional turmoil as well as discontinuities in learning (Griebel & Niesel, 2003). Thus a successful transition is important both for children's wellbeing and their cognitive achievements. Parents and teachers cooperate in order to support children's transition to school, and they make use of many different tools and activities, which together are called transition activities. Among these, one might mention continuity and progression between preschool and school curricula, mutual visits by and orientation between preschool teachers and school teachers, plus cooperation with the families.
Problems in transition
International research shows that too many children experience the transition to school as a culture shock, and each day brings too many challenges or wrong kinds of challenges. There are several reasons for this, such as strong educational differences between preschool and school; a lack of communication between preschool and school; children's diffuse or outdated picture of school; and parents, preschool teachers and teachers having different definitions of the concept of school readiness (Brostrom, 2002a; Pianta & McCoy, 1997). Preschool teachers seem to emphasise personal development, action competence and general skills, whereas school teachers emphasise children's abilities to adjust to school, to fit in with other children, and to function in class (Perry, Dockett & Howard, 2000).
A smooth and successful transition from preschool to school requires attention to several related elements (Brostrom, 2002a):
1. extent of the child's school readiness;
2. support from parents, family and community;
3. a system of high-quality kindergartens for children aged three to five;
4. a school teacher who is able to take the child's perspectives, interests and needs into account; and
5. continuity in curricula, home-school communication, and a welcoming environment for family and children.
Furthermore, investigations show that well-developed relationships and ongoing communication are crucial for a good start in school (Pianta & Walsh, 1996; Epstein, 1996). Taken together, these elements provide directions for the development of transition activities. Through the interaction and connections between the aforementioned areas, the adults strive to help the child to experience continuity and see his or her life as a unified whole. Related to Bronfenbrenner's (1986; 1992) ecological system theory, transition activities can be described at four interconnected levels (macro-, exo-, meso- and micro-level) Examples of such ecological models in the American context are described in Pianta and Walsh (1996), and in a European perspective by Fabian and Dunlop (2002b).
However, although preschool teachers and school teachers during recent years have implemented so-called transition activities such as, for example, mutual visits before school starts and sharing information about children's life and development (Brostrom, 2002a; Einarsdottir, 2003; Pianta, Cox, Taylor & Early, 1999), still too many children experience problems when they proceed from preschool to school.
There is, then, a call for more coherent transitions, which can be achieved in part through a shared overall curriculum and coordination of teaching practices. …