Tāmaki Innovation Campus


20150419_Growing Up_Harper Pirake_053 One of the participants of the study - Harper with her dad Leon (her mum Nadine and young sibling Eden at the background)

The longitudinal study Growing Up in New Zealand is growing up itself, with its recently released eighth report, summarising findings from its 72 Month Data Collection Wave.

Study Director, Associate Professor Susan Morton, says the Transition to school report focusses on the cohort children’s experience of starting formal schooling.

“Starting school is an important milestone for every child and their family, and this report gives us some insight into what contributes to making that process more positive or challenging, from the perspective of the cohort parents.”

Dr Morton says it was heartening to learn that generally, the children were ready to start school and settled relatively quickly, adapting to the change and the school routine in less than a month.

Some mothers were still experiencing difficulties six months later, and some of the reasons given included worrying their child wouldn’t make friends, worrying that they wouldn’t like the school, being separated from their child or that the process was new because the child was their oldest.

For the children, the most common difficulties included adapting to a new routine, being separated from family and getting used to new rules, Dr Morton says.

Easing the transition to school were activities such as class and school visits before the children started school.

“Nearly all of our respondent mothers reported they had actively engaged in transition activities like these with their children,” says Dr Morton.


Other Transition to school findings include:

·         About 25% of the children have experienced a Modern Learning Environment (MLE) within their current school. MLEs feature open, flexible learning spaces and access to technology. Over half have experienced the Milk for Schools programme and 10% have a breakfast club at their school.

·         77% of the children lived within 5km of their school and, while one in four regularly used forms of active transport such as walking, biking or scootering to and from school, the majority (68%) travelled by car.

·         88% percent of mothers reported some form of regular (formal or informal) parental involvement in their child’s school.

·         98% of the children had attended some form of early childhood education in the six months before starting school and had visited their new school before starting.

·         Around 10% of the children moved schools at least once during their first year of primary school. Existing research shows that moving schools more than twice a year may have a negative impact on children’s learning and behaviour. Moving schools was more common for children who identified as Māori, Pacific or Asian, and for children living in homes in high deprivation areas.

·         25% of mothers also reported their child had had at least one change in classroom teacher.

·         Around 90% of mothers reported they were satisfied or very satisfied with the effect their child’s current school was having on their educational, social, emotional and physical needs.

Transition to school also reports on other areas, such as how many of the children had completed their Before School Check (B4SC) by the time they started school and what influenced parents’ choice of school for their child.

Dr Morton said the information gathered by the study to date has laid the platform for later data collection waves as the children transition to adolescence and into adulthood.

“The children are now aged eight or nine and we are more than half way through the current Eight Year Data Collection Wave. This one is particularly exciting because it’s the first time we’re hearing from the children directly; we’re fascinated to learn what their voices will reveal.”

The Now we are eight report is due for release in early 2020.