Education Officer, National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA)
Mo Scéal: Online Reporting Templates
An initiative of the NCCA to help ease the transition from pre-school to primary
This article outlines the process behind publication of the NCCA’s Mo Scéal reporting templates. Mo Scéal means ‘My Story’, and the templates provide an opportunity to tell the story of the child’s interests, strengths, and challenges. The reports can be shared by preschools with parents and, with parents’ consent, with the primary school. The article also lists the types of resources provided by the NCCA to support this important transition.
Project overview and background research
The impetus for the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment’s (NCCA) work on the transition from preschool to primary school was ‘Literacy and Numeracy for Learning and Life: The National Strategy to Improve Literacy and Numeracy among Children and Young People 2011–2020’ (Department of Education and Skills, 2011). In the strategy, the NCCA was asked to develop online reporting templates to share information on children’s learning and development. As preparation for this project, the NCCA commissioned three research reports:
- a review of literature nationally and internationally (O’Kane, 2016)
- a review of data transfer and transition processes internationally (O’Kane and Murphy, 2016a)
- an audit of transfer documents in Ireland (O’Kane and Murphy, 2016b).
These are available at www.ncca.ie.
Key messages from the research
The research confirmed that a positive transition to primary school is a ‘predictor of children’s future success in terms of social, emotional and educational outcomes’ (O’Kane, 2016, p. 13). The key messages from the research reports are:
- A positive experience for children during the transition is important. It is vital that children feel welcome and develop strong relationships in their new school.
- Certain dispositions, skills, and knowledge are important for children at this time and should be focused on in preschools. There is a good degree of consistency about the importance of focusing on social and emotional skills, communication and language skills, and positive learning dispositions such as independence, curiosity, and resilience, with less focus being placed on academic skills.
- Greater alignment in curriculum and pedagogy across preschools and primary schools is critical. Interactive, playful learning and teaching are needed in schools, and more formal teaching approaches have the potential to impact negatively on children. In Ireland, Aistear: the Early Childhood Curriculum Framework (NCCA, 2009) is key, as it can be used to inform practice in both preschools and primary schools.
- Supporting transitions is a shared responsibility between children, families, preschools, primary schools, and communities. What really matters is the development of trusting, respectful relationships between all involved.
- The concept of children’s ‘school readiness’ that dominated in the past has been replaced by a broader approach. Children need to be ‘school-ready’ in the broadest sense, and ‘ready schools’ are equally important.
- A range of social, economic, and demographic factors influence children’s transition to primary school. Some, though not all, children experiencing disadvantage, children with Special Educational Needs (SEN), and children with English as an Additional Language (EAL) may need extra supports at the time of transition.
- The transfer of information on children’s learning and development is an important part of the transition. It can provide valuable information about the child as a learner, and act as a lever in opening up relationships between preschools and primary schools.
- The transition cannot be hurried. It takes time for the child to develop a sense of belonging to the school, and it takes time for preschools and primary schools to build trusting, professional relationships (O’Kane, 2016; O’Kane and Murphy, 2016a).
NCCA’s preschool to primary school transition initiative
Following on from the research, the NCCA developed draft reporting templates. In 2017, the project team worked with a group of preschools and primary schools in a transition initiative that focused on the key messages from the commissioned research, along with piloting two draft templates. The NCCA collaborated with Comhar Naíonraí na Gaeltachta on the Irish-medium settings involved.
Everyone affected by the transition was involved in some way – children, families, preschools, and primary schools. Preschool practitioners and teachers were brought together for four workshops. The NCCA project team visited each preschool and primary school twice, and provided ongoing email and telephone support. Participant feedback was used to improve the draft reporting templates and to learn about the kinds of supports needed to facilitate the transition.
A positive transition to primary school is a ‘predictor of children’s future success.
Overall, the initiative was viewed as a very worthwhile, timely, and positive experience for all involved – families, practitioners, teachers, and the NCCA. The evaluation showed that the transition from preschool to primary school was a positive experience for most children. But it also spotlighted many challenges in supporting transitions, such as difficulties in building professional relationships, lack of time, and extra work (NCCA, 2018a). This replicated research findings both nationally and internationally (O’Kane, 2016; O’Kane and Murphy, 2016a, O’Kane and Murphy, 2016b).
Mo Scéal: transition templates and support materials
The Mo Scéal reporting templates and accompanying support materials were published on the NCCA website at www.ncca.ie/earlychildhood in December 2018. Mo Scéal means ‘My Story’, and the templates provide an opportunity to tell the story of the child’s interests, strengths, and challenges. The reports can be shared with parents and, with their consent, with the primary school. At present there is no requirement for preschools and schools to use the Mo Scéal templates (NCCA, 2018b).
Mo Scéal templates have four sections:
- Section 1: Practitioner – offers space for the practitioner to provide information on the child’s learning and development.
- Section 2: Parent/Guardian – provides space for parents/guardians to share information on their child.
- Section 3: Child – gives the child an opportunity to share something important to them with the teacher, such as art or a photograph, and helps include the child’s voice in the process.
- Section 4: Parent/Guardian Consent – asks for parental/guardian permission to share a copy of the completed document with the primary school.
Everyone affected by the transition was involved in some way – children, families, preschools, and primary schools.
The combined information in the document will give the teacher unique insights into the child’s learning and experiences from home and from preschool. This will be useful particularly in the initial weeks of junior infants.
The reporting templates are available in two formats. In each format, only Section 1: Practitioner is different. Template 1: Section 1 provides space for narrative descriptions based on Aistear’s four themes of Well-being, Identity and Belonging, Communicating, and Exploring and Thinking. Template 2: Section 1 provides ten statements related to each of Aistear’s four themes, accompanied by a 4-point rating scale. Sections 2, 3, and 4 are identical in both formats.
In addition to the templates there are lots of resources available on the NCCA website to support this transition. Table 1 outlines these.
Table 1: Templates and support materials
NCCA’s online publication of the Mo Scéal materials is timely given the publication of First 5: A Whole-of-Government Strategy for Babies, Young Children and their Families 2019–2028 (Government of Ireland, 2018), which has a strong focus on the transition from preschool to primary school. Going forward, as part of First 5, the NCCA will work closely with the Department of Education and Skills, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, and relevant partners to develop guidance and pilot support processes for those focusing on this important transition.
Department of Education and Skills (DES) (2011) Literacy and Numeracy for Learning and Life. Retrieved from: www.education.ie/en/Publications/Policy-Reports/lit_num_strategy_full.pdf.
Government of Ireland (2018) First 5: A Whole-of-Government Strategy for Babies, Young Children and their Families 2019–2028. Dublin: Government Publications.
National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) (2009) Aistear: The Early Childhood Curriculum Framework. Dublin: NCCA.
National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) (2018a) Preschool to Primary School Transition Initiative. Final Report. www.ncca.ie/media/3367/transitionpreschoolprimary_reportfinalfeb.pdf.
National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) (2018b) Mo Scéal: Preschool to Primary Transition. www.ncca.ie/en/early-childhood/mo-scéal.
O’Kane, M. (2016) Transition from Preschool to Primary School: Research Report 19. Report prepared for the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment. www.ncca.ie/en/file/early/ResearchReport19_LR.pdf.
O’Kane, M. and Murphy, R. (2016a) Transition from Preschool to Primary School: Audit of Policy in 14 Jurisdictions. Report prepared for the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment. www.ncca.ie/en/file/early/National-Audit-Draft-10.pdf.
O’Kane, M. and Murphy, R. (2016b) Transition from Preschool to Primary School in Ireland: Audit of Transfer Documentation in Ireland. Report prepared for the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment. www.ncca.ie/en/file/early/National-Audit-Draft-10.pdf.