An exploration of perceptions of school readiness
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Ireland falls behind many international countries in relation to school readiness research. The rationale behind this study arises from the lack of research in this area and the increasing investment and focus on the 3-6 age range particularly in the area of education and the preparation for primary school. Acknowledging that a child’s readiness is influenced by their surroundings Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological model (Bronfenbrenner & Morris, 1998) is utilised as the theoretical framework of this study. A case study research design using a mixed methods approach was employed to explore children’s, caregivers’ and educators’ understanding of what school readiness is in disadvantaged schools in the west of Ireland and also examine children’s early development as they adjust to junior infants. The Caregivers (n=20) and Educators (n=16) took part in semi-structured interviews, and the Children (n=88) took part in the ‘Draw and Tell’ technique (Driessnack, 2005) to illustrate their perceptions of school readiness and starting school. The narratives arising from the data collection were analysed through thematic analysis. The Caregivers and Educators also completed the Early Development Instrument (Janus & Offord, 2007) based on a number of children to identify their levels of development six months after starting junior infants. This data was analysed using non-parametric tests. The findings demonstrate that definitions of school readiness are relative (Graue, 1992) as participants’ experiences mediated their perceptions. Perceptions of school readiness are grounded in the need to be accepted in the new school environment. As a result, all groups emphasised the need for children to display high levels of social and emotional development, and cognition and general knowledge skills. The roles of caregivers, educators and the educational settings are also acknowledged however, both the Caregivers and Educators believe that their views of school readiness are in contrast. The results of the Early Development Instrument indicate that the factors associated with vulnerability include Traveller children and younger children.
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