Wednesday 13 December 2017

Pre-school plan is a leap into unknown if issues unresolved

Whilst in principle the idea of an extra free pre-school year is
Whilst in principle the idea of an extra free pre-school year is "a step in the right direction", we may be taking a leap into the unknown without first addressing the outstanding issues

Dr Malie Coyne

'No way am I holding my child back from starting school!" was a recent response from a parent when I suggested that perhaps her child, who had just turned four, could benefit from another year in pre-school before starting primary school, due to the child's young age and speech difficulties.

I can understand her firm response, as my suggestion may have been dashing her hopes of her child beginning in "big school" this September. I am a mother too and also have hopes and dreams for my children. What a professional suggests does not always fare well with parents, even though we offer suggestions with the best intentions for the children we are delivering a service to. At the same time, I could not help but think back to what a junior infants teacher had once said to me: "We are not a babysitting service." This referred to her frustration at having to manage a classroom of 30-plus children, some of whom were clearly not yet ready, but whom the parents had decided to send anyway, often due to their lack of finances to enrol them for another pre-school year.

In my communication with teachers, having children who have barely turned four can pose a real challenge for them as they are trying to teach a curriculum to a large classroom of children, all with different needs. Apart from their lack of maturity, some children have additional difficulties related to speech, learning, and behavioural or emotional issues. Some may lack basic self-care skills such as putting on their own coat and going to the toilet independently.

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