In April 2012 the Department of Human Services asked parents and carers to tell us about their experiences as they help their children prepare to start school. speechbubble was part of a research project to better understand the factors that help families navigate through key life events and milestones.
We wanted to understand the interactions that people have with the department before, during and after their children start school. Discussion topics focussed on the challenges families face, the things that would make it easier, ways the department could assist parents and carers as they help children prepare to start school, the information that is useful as families prepare for the transition and parents and carers preference for how they receive information.
During the two week period 133 comments and 218 survey responses were posted. Participants reflected on very different experiences associated with starting school, with approximately half telling us that they had found the transition to be very straightforward and were not looking for additional information and support. By contrast, a number of people suggested they found the experience to be quite challenging. From the responses it was apparent that the availability of information to assist parents in getting ready to start school varies enormously from state to state. Similarly, there is considerable disparity in availability of other support for families during this transition.
We received valuable feedback and suggestions from a range of participants. The findings from the speechbubble forum and other research activities will help to improve targeted information and services for families who receive Medicare, Centrelink and Child Support payments and services.