Prof. Emer Smyth Launches Flying Start
In Ardee Library on Friday 18th October 2019, The Genesis Programme launched Flying Start – a new framework supporting children, parents and professionals on the key transitions that happen in the first five years of a child’s life.
Professor Emer Smyth from the Economic & Social Research Institute (ESRI) and an expert in transitions gave the keynote address during which she said ‘most children settle into primary school easily but some children face greater challenges. Positive relationships between teachers and students play a crucial role in easing difficulties’.
The Flying Start website www.flyingstart.ie outlines this framework and provides information and support across three definitive transition stages:
1. The Transition to Parenthood
2. The Transition to Early and Learning and Care
3. The Transition to Primary School
Included in the Flying Start framework is a revamped Little Steps to Big School programme that was originally developed by Louth Leader Partnership, Louth County Childcare Committee and Dundalk Institute of Technology in 2012.This has a wealth of interactive and dynamic resources for parents and professionals.
The development of Flying Start has parents and children at the core but it will also be a very useful resource for professionals working with children and their families.
Transitions are a natural and normal part of growth and development. The first five years of a child’s life are full of changes, from being expectant parents’ right through to waving your child off on the first day of primary school. These changes all come with a degree of uncertainty. Flying Start supports parents, children and professionals in making the first five years of a child’s life an enjoyable and fulfilling experience.
Dara Young, a parent from Ardee said in relation to Preparing for Parenthood: ‘I didn’t know what was going to come, what was going to happen. I had a lot of pressure on myself because I was younger. At the time, I did not have a degree, I only had a brand new job and I did not know what the future held for me. I had questions like ‘how do I sort out childcare?’
However, there was support available to Dara and she would encourage other young parents to do any programmes they can: ‘I met Lucy Maguire from the Teen Parent Programme. She listened to me, supported me and helped me figure things out. Join any programmes you can. I found the Incredible Years Parent and Baby Programme brilliant after I had my baby. I met other mothers both young and older. It made me feel that every mother was going through the same things. The same worries, fears and excitement. I only truly accepted this is ok and this is normal when I got to be around other mothers.’
Susan Hughes, a parent from Drogheda said in relation to Preparing for Early Learning and Care: ‘I felt anxious as I didn’t know any child minders. I was anxious as I had breastfed her and I was worried about how she would feed in Day Care, as she had never taken to a bottle. I visited the Louth County Childcare website for a list of childminders and I attended the Incredible Years Toddler Programme. I found this to be good in terms of meeting other mums and learning new strategies. It was important to me that these strategies were also being put into practice in the day care setting, as it was important for me to communicate to the minder how I managed positive and negative behaviours’
Edel Hannelly, a parent from Drogheda said in relation to Preparing for Primary School: ‘I was really nervous and I didn’t know what to expect. What we had to do with Lexie before she started school was to practice what she had learned in crèche and encourage her to use her listening ears in school. You have to prepare them for what’s ahead by telling them what they can expect, they will have a lunchbox, be given homework, learn new things , make new friends and also have teacher telling them what to do’.
As regards advice for other parents facing into their child going to ‘big school’ for the first time, she said: ‘Let them take the lead and come back and tell you if something is wrong. It sounds funny but they will end up reassuring you. Sit down with them after school one on one and give them time to tell you how their day went’.
The Flying Start website is now live and the Little Steps to Big School programme resources are being distributed to participating early learning and care centres and primary schools.
Background to the Development of Flying Start
In October 2017, The Genesis Programme project team convened two Focus Groups consisting of early year’s practitioners, teachers, Louth Co Childcare Committee, HSE and TUSLA staff.
Dr Mary O’Kane, a Lecturer in Psychology, Early Childhood Studies and Education at Maynooth University and a leading researcher in the area of childhood transitions facilitated these groups. The overall aim was to produce a coordinated Transitions Framework for children, parents and professionals in County Louth.
Following on from the Focus Groups, a Transitions Working Group consisting of representatives from partner organisations including the HSE, Tusla, Louth County Childcare Committee, participating Schools and Early Learning and Care Centres was formed. The purpose of the group was to develop a comprehensive package to support transitions for children, parents and professionals across County Louth. Yvonne Forde and Claire Gleeson from The Genesis Programme project team coordinated and led out on this.
Key components included in the framework are:
Transition to Parenthood
Preparing for Parenthood – Covering prenatal care and nutrition, personal and mental wellbeing, physical health and preparing for birth.
Caring For You & Your Baby During Pregnancy – Covering the transition to parenthood, changing relationships and advice on maternity and hospital options.
Newborn Essentials – Covering postnatal depression, skin-to-skin contact, breastfeeding, introducing baby to siblings and taking baby home.
Babies Social and Emotional Development – Covering social and emotional milestones, baby yoga, attachment, tummy time, baby massage and the use of songs and rhymes.
Transition to Early Learning and Care
Choosing Early Learning and Care – Making an informed decision, providing information on the early childhood care and education programme, the types of early childhood care and education programme and entitlements for parents under the National Childcare Scheme.
Preparing for Early Learning and Care – Providing tips and strategies on settling your child into early learning and care, local support groups for mothers and toddlers, child directed play, making preparation fun, separation anxiety and leaving your child for the first time.
Transition to Primary School
Preparing for Primary School – Covering school readiness skills, social and emotional development, learning through play, Little Steps to Big School, interactive reading, starting school in a new country and easing the transition for children with additional needs