Transition to school for children with challenging behaviours : family/whānau and teachers' perspectives : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master in Educational Psychology at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand

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Massey University
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Challenging behaviours are complex and are exhibited in a range of ways as a result of many different personal and environmental factors. When a child who is already predisposed to exhibiting these behaviours transitions from early childhood to primary school, the new and unknown circumstances can add to those challenging behaviours and create a negative experience for the children, families and teachers involved. Upon reviewing existing literature on transitions to school, there is an apparent gap in the literature on how to create a positive transition experience for children with challenging behaviours, particularly in the New Zealand context. This study started to address this gap by gaining the perspectives of parents and teachers on the transition to school for children with challenging behaviours. Semi-structured interviews involving 11 adults (parents, teachers/management) who were involved in transitioning three children to school in the last 12-18 months were used to draw out their voices. A qualitative approach within the framework of appreciative inquiry placed positive experiences as the focus. This meant barriers were addressed as a starting point for positive change. A thematic analysis was used to identify positive factors and barriers to successful transitions. The findings of this research highlighted that the building of positive, collaborative and trusting relationships, and open communication within transition teams was at the centre of positive transition practices, whether it be for children with challenging behaviours or for all children. The study also highlighted the importance of ecological adaptations needed in both the early childhood centres and schools for transitions to be effective. Children and parents needed to be well prepared for what to expect when starting school. This drew attention to the importance of bridging existing pedagogical gaps and gaps in policy between early childhood education and primary school. As is common in the New Zealand context, where Māori values such as aroha, whanaungatanga and manaakitanga are well integrated into practice, the teachers in the study were committed to providing children and their families with the best level of support possible during their children’s transition. However, issues of funding, time and professional expertise were identified as barriers. It is hoped that changes proposed under the government’s Learning Support Action Plan (Ministry of Education, 2019) will be a step in the right direction to address these barriers.
Problem children, Education (Elementary), New Zealand, Readiness for school, Early childhood education, Parents, Teachers, Attitudes