Pre-primary a must for children

Pre-primary a must for children

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Challis Primary School's Kristy Tomlinson said parents should not underestimate the importance of pre-primary education. Photograph - Kelly Pilgrim-Byrne.

An Armadale primary school employee said many parents did not recognise the importance of sending their pre-primary age children to school regularly.

Kristy Tomlinson is the Coordinator of Extended School Services at Challis Primary School and said misconceptions about the requirement to enrol and attend pre-primary meant some kids were missing out.

In Western Australia it has been mandatory to send pre-primary age children to school since 2013.

“When parents went through school pre-primary wasn’t compulsory and some families don’t understand now that it is,” she said.

“A lot of important learning happens in it.

“Previously it might have been more play and less formal education – but it’s crucially important now.”

A 2014 Department of Education report recorded average attendance at WA public schools was about 80 per cent and Challis wanted to get theirs up to 95 per cent.

Missing just one day of school a week adds up to 40 days a year – or over two-and-a-half years in school days over 13 years at school.

Challis recently took on a University of Western Australia student who volunteered as part of an internship offered by the university’s McCusker Centre for Citizenship.

Jacinta Whitehouse is 26-years-old and spent three months at the primary school helping devise strategies to improve attendance for children in pre-primary and year three.

She is studying a Bachelor of Commerce degree and applied for the placement to devise a market research strategy for the school after she saw it advertised on a list of internships.

Ms Whitehouse got to work identifying challenges faced in the community with getting young children to school by organising parent workshops.

She also designed posters that explained the importance of regular school attendance for children.

She said a lack of social networking between parents was a major factor in children not being sent to school.

“You have parents from non-English speaking backgrounds, parents who have just moved into the area, and it’s hard for them because of isolation.

“Openly talking to people and talking with each other and letting the school know what was going on was an interaction they seemed to be missing.”

Ms Whitehouse said children were not developing their own friend groups for similar reasons.

“In the past we would go onto the street and make friends but that’s rarer now,” she said.

“The school is the main hub to develop that sense of community and friend network.”