Primary teachers should stop binning reports from nurseries and recognise the wealth of information on pupils from parents, nursery staff and other pre-five professionals, a research study on early intervention has concluded.
Jean Kerr, an East Ayrshire psychologist who headed the Scotland-wide investigation, said: "In the past, there has often been an ethos of a fresh start in primary; there is a parallel between primary 7 and secondary. For the first time, we will have an opportunity to establish links in a cohesive way. Before, not all children were able to achieve pre-school provision."
Margaret Crankshaw, an East Ayrshire colleague, found nursery teachers' reports to be "devalued and distrusted" by primary staff. "Teachers should be aware there is information out there about children and they should use it, not bin it," Mrs Crankshaw said. "The traditional perceived divide between pre-five and primary is obviously being eroded but there is still a huge training and attitudinal issue to bridge the gap."
There was a diversity of experience before children entered the first year of primary but this would diminish. Nurseries often supplied children to many primaries, others transferred them along the corridor to the adjacent school. Parents, Mrs Crankshaw said, must be sold a role and seen as valuable members of the pre-school partnership. Intervention programmes were likely to be most effective when parents were involved.
Mrs Kerr believed profiling of pre-fives would become more important than baseline testing in primary 1. "The skills of staff working with children and observations by parents will form the basis of a good assessment and if that can be structured, then issues of screening will lessen.
"It will be assessment in the naturally occurring context in nurseries and at home. We should not lose the rich information from the pre-school sector and the parents' knowledge," she said.
Mrs Crankshaw said the transition to primary was a crucial stage when children had to cope with many new pressures. Change had to be gradual, children should be familiar with their new environment and feel a sense of security. "We should be avoiding shock at a period when they need to be comfortable with what is happening to them," she said.