Miss Alessia Pivato1, Dr Kobie Boshoff1, Mrs Sarah Seekamp1
1University Of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia
South Australian preschool educators report anecdotally they perceive changes in children’s development over the past decade, and consequently, changes in children’s school readiness, also evidenced by Australian Education Development Census (AEDC, 2018) data. This honours study describes the profile of South Australian children’s development and school readiness, based on perceptions of preschool directors. The study also explores the understandings of school readiness and its relationship to developmental delay.
An online questionnaire was developed, guided by literature in the child development field, and was reviewed, piloted and validated by experts. In total, 405 directors from the South Australian Department for Education-funded preschools, were invited to take part. Data analysis involved descriptive statistics and content analysis.
Out of 103 returned questionnaires (a 25.4% response rate), the majority were preschool directors with over 15 years’ experience as director and/or working with children in any field. The majority (80%) of participants agreed there has been an increase in the number of children diagnosed with, or observed to have developmental delay, over the past decade. Directors commonly defined school readiness as a developmental status of the child, with others extending this concept to add the primary school’s readiness to receive the child. The majority (82%) acknowledged children with signs of developmental delay are at risk of not being “school ready”.
From this study, it is evident that over the past decade, experienced preschool directors have observed South Australian children’s development decline due to the increase in children who have been diagnosed or observed to have delays. These delays are impacting on their readiness to transition into the formal school system. Factors affecting children’s development have been identified. Practical implications include the need for urgent support for these children to ensure they are ready for transition to school and to engage optimally in their learning.