At Wellington College International Shanghai's newly-opened, purpose-built Early Years Centre, we aim to equip our pupils for future challenges from the very beginning educational journey. Our curriculum is on par with that of the best international schools in Shanghai. It makes learning fun, enjoyable and accessible, while carefully preparing them for the next stage of their academic efforts.
Head of Pre-Prep Ms Alex Newell explains the importance of the transition from the Early Years to Pre-Prep.1:33
Is the transition from Early Years to Pre-Prep School a significant one? What can pupils and parents expect from it?
Ms Newell: It's significant in terms of the fact that academic rigour of their lessons is stepped up. Pupils entering year 1 are coming to our main campus for the first time. They will start to mix with a much larger pupil population covering a wider age range. It’s a new start and a new challenge, but it's one that we aim to make as exciting and enjoyable as possible.
What plans do are being made to make the transition a welcome one?
Ms Newell: Firstly, As an international school in Shanghai, our aim is to demystify the daily realities of Pre-Prep School as much as possible for our Early Years pupils now, before they enter year 1. We want to give them (and their parents) a very clear idea of what they can expect life in the Pre-Prep to be like, exposing them to all the new and exciting things they will get to explore. But we also want to provide plenty of familiar elements, so they won’t think that their school lives are changing too much or too fast.
We would normally put together a series of visits planned for the Lent and summer terms in which the Reception children come to visit the main campus. However, due to COVID 19, this has not been possible for this year. We will be arranging for the new Head of Year 1, Mr Michael Orchard, to visit the current Reception children along with myself and other members of the year 1 team. We will also be providing the current Reception children with video recordings of the year 1 teachers introducing themselves and links to the teachers telling stories. The children can then see all their new teachers as many times as they so wish. It is important that all the children become familiar with the whole team of teachers as they go to different teachers for Mandarin, specialists, phonics and CCAs.
What preparations have you made to help familiarise EYC pupils when they visit?
Ms Newell: All Pre-Prep teachers have been involved in developing the outdoor area. Each has been allocated a specific area, so we have a maths box, a dressing up area, a shop, a physical play box, a dinosaur area and plenty more.
How important is it to make pupils feel at ease in their new learning environment?
Ms Newell: Without the gradual transition that we’re providing, pupils may be left feeling detached from familiar things that they loved and enjoyed about school. This is clearly not a good mental place for learning and general wellbeing. By building their arrival into the Pre-Prep School as an exciting new adventure we can avoid all of that.
How do you tailor this approach to each individual pupil?
Ms Newell: We are working closely with the Early Years team, who will prepare very thorough transition information for each child, complete with things like their academic level, reading level and social development needs. That’s shared with us well before the new year 1 pupils arrive, so we can hit the ground running and get straight into giving them the appropriate learning opportunities they need.
How do you communicate with parents about your plans and expectations for their child in terms of daily routines, academic challenges and so on?
Ms Newell: During the summer term I ran an online presentation for all new parents where I covered expectations, curriculum content, routines, the role of specialist teachers, lunches and timetables. We also included practical ideas for developing English and maths skills throughout the summer holiday.
Of course, as an international school in Shanghai, we aim to make Wellington parents our partners in their children’s education. We will use our channels to give parents the information they need while encouraging them to come to us with any questions they might have. We want both children and parents to feel as comfortable, confident and excited as possible about this big step forward in these pupils’ lives.