ECV2020 Keynote Speakers 5

‘Invisible’ transitions to school: A hidden concern

Sue Dockett, Charles Sturt University, Australia and Peridot Education Pty Ltd (
Bob Perry, Charles Sturt University, Australia and Peridot Education Pty Ltd (

Biography: Sue Dockett and Bob Perry are Professors Emeriti at Charles Sturt University, Australia and Directors of Peridot Education Pty Ltd. Combined, they have more than 80 years of successful experience teaching and researching in tertiary institutions. They continue to contribute to their major research fields of educational transitions and mathematics education, through research, consultancy and publication, both nationally and internationally. Both Sue and Bob adopt strengths- and participatory rights-based approaches in their work with children, families with complex support needs, Indigenous families and communities, and the evaluation of educational programs.


Background: Most children starting primary school in Australia follow the well-known route of home – preschool or childcare – transition to school program – Day 1 of school. Within this sequence, there are many opportunities to build relationships and work towards effective transitions. But what of children who do not fit this ‘normal’ pattern?

Aim: To investigate the nature, extent and consequences of children’s transition to school in circumstances that do not fit the ‘normal’ pattern.

Method: The presentation draws uponmethods and approachesfrom several transition to school studies conducted by the authors in various Australian states over recent years. Data includes the perspectives of children, families, educators, and community members.

Results: Some schools report that up to 25% of the children starting the first year of school are unknown to the school before Day 1. For other schools, the numbers are much smaller but each child (and family) is significant. In other schools, more than 25% of the total school enrolment may change during a year. These children and families who are often ‘invisible’ to schools may be less well-prepared for school socially, materially, and academically than children who have followed the usual route to starting school. Despite often elaborate and well-planned processes for children on this ‘normal’ route, most schools and communities do not have quality processes for ensuring that the children ‘invisible’ to the school experience an effective transition to school.

Conclusions: Significant efforts need to be, and in some cases have been, made to ensure that ‘invisible’ transitions to school are given similar status to ‘normal’ transitions so that all children and their families can experience effective transitions to school no matter when and under what circumstances they occur.

Implications for children: How did you feel when you first came to school? What does it mean to say that you belong at school?

Implications for families: What was the most important thing for you when you brought your child to the school for the first time?

Implications for practitioners: You know they are coming so what have you prepared for those children and families whom you don’t know about?

Key words: transitions, invisible, multiple perspectives, wellbeing, education, qualitative methods

This presentation relates to the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: