The Role Of A Child Care Centre: Preparing Your Child For School

A child care centre may also be referred to as a preschool centre, kindergarten or early learning centre. Even if the kind of learning that goes on in such centres may seem simplistic (it involves a lot of play-based programs), it does require appropriately qualified teachers.

You are also likely to come across integrated centres, which offer more than just one service to your child. These may include such aspects as early education, preschool, play grounds, health services, family support services and early development.

Basically, such child-centred facilities aim to prepare your child for adult life and, more specifically, entry to primary school.

When Does A Child Start Preschool And Primary School?

The government of South Australia offers clear guidelines on the best time for kids to get into preschool programs. Your child can get into preschool within the same year that he/she turns four years old, if he/she turn four years old before May 1. This will allow him/her to get in the first term. However, your child would have to wait for the following year in order to join preschool, if her/his fourth year birthday falls either on May 1 or after.

After going through preschool, your child would benefit from that much-needed preparation that would help him/her smoothly transition into primary school. This transition to primary school should be done by the time such a child has attained six years of age.

Just as in the case of preschool, the government of South Australia offers clear guidelines on the best time for kids to get into primary school. Your child can get into a primary school within the same year that he/she turns six years old, if he/she turn six years old before May 1. This will allow him/her to get in the first term. However, your child would have to wait for the following year in order to join primary school, if her/his sixth year birthday falls either on May 1 or after.

The Process Of Transitioning To Primary School

There are many aspects that can pose a challenge to kids and parents when children are transitioning from child care, on to preschool and finally to primary school. Parents need to understand the numerous aspects that can cause stress in their children, starting from the intimidating buildings to older kids in the playground. The rules can also be quite challenging to cope with as well as the formal setup.

To help deal with such challenges, several strategies can be used to give young children a better transitioning process:

– Prior visits to the school can be organized for a period of several weeks. This will help kids get used to such new environments.

– Such visits to schools can be made even more comprehensive, by taking the child around the new school, which gives an even better familiarization experience. This would help the child identify various features within the facility, such as toilets and playgrounds.

– Prior visits are made even richer and more meaningful by involving teachers and other children within the school.

School Library Provision and Services in Sierra Leone

Introduction

Harrod’s (2000), defined school library as an organized collection of books placed in a school for the use of teachers and pupils, but usually for pupils. It may comprise books of reference and or books for home reading and in the care of a professional librarian, or teacher-librarian. It is variously call “Instructional Materials Centre”, “Learning Centre or Media centre.”

The School library serves as a service agency which supports the schools’ objectives and provides materials for all subjects and all interest of pupils and teachers. The school library is a supportive resource of the school curriculum, its provisions, services, and development is directed at aiding school programmes (Kinnel, 1994).

Libraries generally have as their main purpose acquiring, processing, storing and disseminating information to which school library is not an exception. The school library has a vital role to play in the information service. They provide materials relevant to the curricular needs of everybody with the school community. The importance of providing such resources cannot be overemphasized if the school library is to be an instigator of and support for resource based learning in the school.

Also, in relation to information skills, the library and its librarian, make available materials and services in different varieties to allow both pupils and the school community to use these skills in finding the information they need.

The purpose and philosophy of school library service are rapidly being understood and accepted by school administrators and teachers. The fact necessitates that the school librarian be thoroughly familiar with those purposes such as guidance, the reading programme and the enrichment programme for pupils and teachers. However, Albert Academy library has no trained and qualified librarian, who understands and performs those purposes in order to ensure that the service provision is fully attained.

Albert Academy School Library

The Albert Academy was inaugurated on the 4th October 1904. It was until 1975 when the Albert Academy Alumni Association in their meeting thought it wise that such a reputable institution must not go without a library as the development of school libraries was at its highest peak at that time. An idea to erect a library building was born with the collaboration of the alumni association and the owners of the school that is the United Methodist Church. The library was established with the aim of having a place where pupils could go and explore new ideas to further strengthen their school curriculum activities and leisure as well.

The library was officially opened to the entire school community by His Excellency the late Dr. Siaka P. Stevens on 4th October 1976, then President of the Republic of Sierra Leone and also a member of the Albert Academy Alumni Association class of 1922. The library was named after him following the immense contribution he made towards establishing the library for the school community. The Albert Academy Library has a mission to “Support school curriculum activities by providing materials of relevance in the school process and to introduce new and improved information sources to help make the school to be in line with modern standards of education.”

The objectives of the Albert Academy school library are as follows:

I. To provide pupils with library materials and services most appropriate and most meaningful in their growth and development;

ii. To participate fully in school programmes as it strikes to meet the needs of pupils, teachers, parents and others community members;

iii. to stimulate and guide pupils in all phases of their reading that they may find increasing enjoyment and satisfaction and may grow in critical judgment and appreciation;

iv. To make available new development and keep pupils abreast of modern trends in education recognize reader’s needs and keeping them well informed in order to create a well dynamic educational environment;

v. To work with the teacher in the selection and production of educational materials that meet the aims of the curriculum, offer guidance in the use of collection, evaluation of education programmes and materials, facilitates the location, organisation and maintenance of materials efficiently; and

vi. To help pupils to become skilled users of libraries and of printed and audio-visual materials.

Library Provision at Albert Academy School Library

A major role in the information service provided by modern school library is in the provision of materials relevant to the curricular needs of pupils and teachers. In recent years, the curriculum activities have moved to another level, where the school being supportive resource of this movement, must endeavor to house a variety of print and non-print materials and have access where possible to electronic sources of information which are also part of the information resources in the library.

Given the demands of the modern school curriculum, the school library must now house a wide variety of print and non-print materials and have access, where possible, to electronic sources of information. The Albert Academy School provides printed materials, book, fiction and non-fiction as well as pamphlets, newspapers, chart, pictures, monographs, manuals, handbooks, textbooks and other reference books the library also provides non-books materials which include audio and audio-visual materials, slides, tape-slides, video cassettes, and CD ROM’s. Although these are not materials in the traditional sense, they still constitute resources for use by pupils and teachers. Use of electronic sources help school libraries to present pupils and teachers with a concept of a School Information Centre which is not continued to the school but is a link to an unending supply of information (Herring, 1988).

Albert Academy School Library Services

The purpose of establishing Albert Academy School Library is to provide services for both pupils and teachers in a bid to fulfill one of its major purposes, which is to aid curriculum goals by providing services that are indispensably linked to the fulfillment of this purpose.

One of the principal services of the Albert Academy School library is to act as back-up to the under resourced school programme. Even advanced countries cannot easily stock materials ranging from five thousand (5,000) to twenty thousand (20,000) in a small room to provide help to school programmes. Therefore, they see the need for central stock of materials which can be borrowed for differing lengths of time (lending service) and also for reading and consultation services. This is done in order to augment the school curriculum at the Albert Academy which is inclusive of the Basic Sciences and Technology, Social Sciences, Humanities and the Fine Arts.

Albert Academy School library also provides inter-library loan services requests. This is particularly valuable to senior pupils studying topics across subjects offered in depth. Pupils who cannot afford to purchase or access such expensive materials benefit from this type of library service. Through inter-library loan services, materials are sourced from other schools libraries for the benefit of both pupils and teachers.

A reference service is also provided at Albert Academy School library. The School Librarians spend a sizeable proportion of their time providing what in other libraries term would be termed as reference service. In providing a reference service, school Librarians perform a similar role to that of other librarians. In a reference interview in school, each pupil is treated as important as the other and given the Librarian’s full attention. This is achieved by personal assistance given to the pupils and teachers in finding specific information whether direct or indirect. Some of the reference materials at the Albert Academy School Library are dictionaries, encyclopedias, directories, yearbooks, biographies newspapers, maps and charts, and the academic and administrative calendar of events or the operation of the school.

One of the most valuable services provided by Albert Academy School library is that of information provision. The Albert Academy School library keeps the teachers and pupils informed about new educational resources and development in the fields of interest to them by displaying the jackets of books that just arrived. The Albert Academy School library uses Current Awareness Services (CAS) to achieve this goal. This is done by identifying the information needs of both teachers and pupils and meeting these needs. Linked to the CAS is the Selective Dissemination of Information (SDI) and this is more particular with teachers. This ranges from keeping individual teachers informed about new resources in the library or about newly published materials, to alerting teachers to meetings and course demands or event linked to their curricular interest.

Challenges of Library Provision and Services at the Albert Academy School Library

No matter what an organisation has to count as success, is bound to face certain difficulties that stand before it as challenges to its success. School Libraries in Sierra Leone, especially Albert Academy School Library are not without challenges.

To start with the library and its resources have been ignored by the pupils and teachers. Despite their all-important nature of service provision in support to them they do not see it as a valuable part of their activities. This is because most teachers and pupils do not get adequate supply of textbooks and other materials directly linked to the curriculum programme and most teachers prepare pamphlets for sale to pupils from which there teaching is based. This has caused most of the pupils to heavily depend on those sources instead of the library resources.

The School Library has a staffing challenge. For example the Albert Academy School Library has no professional library staff to handle an information service for over two thousand pupils and teachers.

Furthermore, the library has a challenge with space. The space provided for the library from inception is now not enough for the school. The school population in terms of teachers and pupils has grown relatively high to over two thousand (2000) pupils and staff as compared to the space provided for a little over Five hundred (500) pupils and staff about 40 years ago. It has become difficult to access the library and its resources.

In addition, there is a funding problem. The Albert Academy School Library is faced with the difficultly of securing funds from the schools authorities for an effective collection development. The library depends heavily on donations and gifts to stock its collection and most of these materials given in this guise are not reflective of the courses offered in the school curriculum. Often, the school administration has to spread meager financial resources across a wide spectrum of school needs.

The establishment of the computer laboratory with slight internet facilities independent of the school library has also created a problem for the Albert Academy School Library. The teachers and pupils would prefer to visit the Computer centre for Internet services much more that visiting the library. The separation of the Internet facilities from the library services has posed a serious threat to the library provision and services.

Also, it is quite proven that the Albert Academy School Library lacks the capacity to provide for the visually impaired or handicapped. The absence of school library materials in the Braille format prevents blind and the partially sighted pupils to utilize the available library resources in their schools libraries.

Final, the issue of preservation of library materials is not a common practice for the Albert Academy School. This preservation is supposed to ensure that the materials last long because of their frequent use. It has become difficult to access funds to preserve materials that are under threat of wearing out through continuous use.

Despite some gloomy predictions on the future funding of education and possible restrictions on the availability of resources at the Albert Academy School Library, the future of the school library seems assured. It can be argued that because of current educational and technological trends, there has never been a greater need for well-resourced and professionally staffed school library than it is now. The emphasis on the individual’s-the child’s and the adult’s-ability to find and use information effectively is likely to continue in schools, at work and for leisure pursuits. A future society dependent on electronic information for its prosperity will need an information curriculum in its schools. Hence the availability of good school library provision and services in the school curriculum cannot be overemphasised (Kargbo, 2000).

School Improvement in Action – Lessons in Sustainability

Each of the six schools, received $25,000 to carry out a two-year research-guided intervention, to improve literacy or numeracy levels of students. Programs were developed in consultation with all school partners, and involved 50% or more of the students and staff in each school. Activities to improve student outcomes resulted in professional development, new teaching materials and resources, planning and collaboration time, articulated assessment and diagnostic processes, and innovative forms of data analysis and management.

In order to document the efforts and outcomes of the schools, SAEE contracted Dr. Cynthia Lewis to visit each school, assist in the development of a research-based intervention, monitor progress and write the final report. There were 3,800 students and 100 educators involved overall.

Lewis’ report School Improvement in Action: Lessons in Sustainability weaves together the findings from each of the six case studies, identifies successes and challenges, indicates strategies, and provides recommendations. Following the release of the report in November of 2006, principals and teacher leaders from each of the six schools gathered to share the results of their two-year projects in a SAEE sponsored knowledge exchange forum at the Delta School District resource centre.

OVERVIEW OF FINDINGS

The focus on understanding learning, together with the integral role of assessment, was clearly at the centre of efforts to improve student achievement in these schools. Assessment FOR learning became part of the school culture. A balance of school-based and standardized tools, including quantitative and qualitative data, disaggregated and tracked by cohort and groups of concern, provided the most powerful information for educators, students, parents and the larger community.

A key component of action research is the understanding that schools build capacity for improved student achievement when continuous learning becomes part of the school culture. In these case studies, meaningful collaboration was enabled through focused dialogue about diagnostic data, and about detailed samples of student work. The research shows that implementing instructional adaptations at the classroom level needs to be grounded in teachers’ own judgments and reflections about the quality of their students’ work. Teachers need to be supported as they “try on” new approaches and reflect on their effectiveness.

The report stresses that school success relied upon school leaders who provided structural and philosophical support, parents who were informed and involved with the process, and community services that were integrated and coordinated at the school level.

SCHOOLS AND PROGRAMS

Harwin Elementary, Prince George

At Harwin, the staff conducted research into how to improve and elicit more writing from students in the younger years. More finely-tuned descriptors were developed by the staff in order to reflect emergent growth for their students. Portfolios were implemented, and writing samples were collected and evaluated collaboratively three times per year. Teachers used daily writing and a variety of direct teaching strategies. A school-wide guided reading program was implemented in the second year involving students from across classrooms who were grouped for level-specific reading instruction.

Parkside Centennial, Langley

Parkside was interested in a process of building student and parent understanding for actively using key reading strategies through the use of assessment rubrics for self evaluation. The interventions were multi-faceted. Collaborative time was dedicated to deepening understanding of assessment, establishing assessment tools, and implementing a set of four reading strategies (Predict, Clarify, Question, and Summarize). Additional interventions were adapted and implemented for the students most at risk.

Twelfth Avenue Elementary, Burnaby

The action research process initiated by the staff at Twelfth Avenue was in the area of reading achievement. Smaller, more flexible ability groupings for reading were formed across grade levels involving the learning support staff in order to form the smallest groups possible for the most at-risk students. Numerous levelled books were purchased and organized in bins. A peer tutoring program was established as well. Intermediate students read with Primary children and tracked their progress. Staff collaboration time focused on student groupings, instructional materials, assessment and evaluation tools, collective problem solving for processes and plans, and efficient and effective data gathering and analysis.

Armstrong Elementary, Armstrong

The action research proposal developed by Armstrong Elementary was oriented to building home-school literacy partnerships in the implementation of a balanced literacy program for all students. The strategies included the Write Traits writing program, the use of school-wide writes as assessment tools based on the British Columbia Performance Standards for Writing, and the implementation of the Four Blocks model. This included structured time in every classroom for guided reading, self-selected reading, writing and working with words (vocabulary, spelling and phonics).

Jarvis Elementary, Delta

The purpose of the action research grant at Jarvis was to support the K-4 staff to work together to unpack their own thinking about when and how mathematical “sense-making” is developed and implement instructional strategies to make this process explicit with students and parents. Detailed assessment data provided the baseline for the diagnosis of students’ strengths and gaps regarding number concepts in order to inform instruction and teachers’ collaborative dialogue. Several teachers piloted the integration of children’s literature and mathematical thinking. In Year Two, instructional strategies and interventions were refined in order to focus on students not yet meeting expectations and on promoting parents’ understanding. Data was used to assess learning each term, with the common understanding that “meeting expectations” on the report card means 100% attainment of core learning outcomes. The staff also developed a process-based model for parent workshops with special invitation to the parents of at-risk students.

New Westminster Secondary School

The first year of the grant’s budget was used primarily to release the original research team and the English Department to establish the reading assessment protocols. In addition, a teacher research team was formed voluntarily amongst the staff to engage in reflection about how to teach thoughtful reading and how to assess it. “Learning Rounds” were used as a structure for teachers to collaborate and observe instruction using new strategies and debriefing sessions. In Year Two, staff refined the assessment tool to increase authenticity, requiring students to reflect on their reading and thinking at the end of the assessment process. Teachers also added a qualitative element to data collection about their classes, in order to better adjust to individual classes, and share commonalities across the grade level and department. Time was dedicated to disaggregating the data, discussing overall trends, and specifics regarding groups such as grade cohorts, gender, ESL, Aboriginal, high achieving and at-risk students. In-service and “coaching” by the Learning Facilitator continued to refine aspects of critical thinking skills and task analysis. During Year Two, professional learning opportunities and small group work was extended to the ESL Department, the Social Studies Department, teachers of at-risk students and Special Education assistants.

School Improvement in Action: Lessons in Sustainability concludes with five recommendations for schools and districts at large. Lewis calls for more focused attention to the relationship between assessment tools, instructional interventions and student progress over time. She says that schools need to provide systemic structures for tracking the progress of individual students from grade to grade, level to level, and school to school. Also, she asserts that it is important to examine strategies for the involvement of parents and the community and to create innovative solutions for the problems of time and expectations around staff teamwork. Lewis also recommends that the principal’s role in ensuring instructional quality be more explicit.

To view or order this report please visit http://www.saee.ca