A child's eligibility to start school has historically been decided on the basis of chronological age. Children who are eligible for school, however, are not necessarily ready, and readiness for school is currently determined by parent and preschool teacher perceptions. Where uncertainty exists, children, in their preschool years, are frequently referred to occupational therapists for assessment to assist in this decision process. Traditionally, occupational therapy assessment approaches have been based on neuromaturation models addressing a child's development and sensory integrative functioning. More recently, a conceptual shift toward occupation-based models of occupational therapy practice has occurred, necessitating broader evaluation of the dynamic relationship between the child's abilities, occupation, and environment. It is with this shift in mind that the current research was undertaken. The primary aim of this study was to better understand the factors that influenced parent and preschool teacher perceptions of a child's readiness to start school. A secondary aim was to examine how these perceptions manifested in school adjustment. To achieve these aims, an exploratory study comprising two phases was undertaken. Phase one involved 215 children of preschool age, their parents and preschool teachers. Each child's development and home environment was assessed, and parents completed three questionnaires providing information about the child's temperament, behaviour, and the parents' perceptions of the child's readiness for school. Preschool teachers completed the teacher versions of the same questionnaires. Phase two involved assessing each child's adjustment to school, by sending questionnaires to the parents and Year One teachers of 196 children from the original sample who commenced school the following year. Separate parent and teacher models were proposed wherein significant associations between the influencing factors, parent and preschool teacher perceptions of readiness, and adjustment to school were hypothesised.
Variables such as advanced development, positive temperament, high levels of adaptive behaviors, better quality home environments, higher socioeconomic status, and older children (greater chronological age) were expected to predict high parent and teacher perceptions of school readiness, and high levels of school adjustment. Negative behaviour and gender (boys) were expected to predict low parent and teacher perceptions of school readiness, and low levels of school adjustment. High parent and preschool teacher perceptions of readiness were expected to be predictive of high levels of subsequent adjustment to school.
Structural equation modeling was undertaken to determine the fit of the data to each of the models. Analysis of the hypothesised parent model indicated a good level of fit, with chi-squared (x2) (59, n = 174) = 100.31, p< .001, Goodness-of-Fit Index (GFI) = .93, Adjusted Goodness-of-Fit Index (AGFI) = .87, Nonnormed Fit Index (NNFI) = .94, Comparative Fit Index (CFI) = .96, Standardized Root Mean Residuals (SRMR) = .07. Analysis of the hypothesised teacher model indicated that the model also demonstrated a good level of fit, with x2 (78, n = 160) = 127.76, p< .001, GFI = .91, AGFI = .86, NNFI = .95, CFI = .96, SRMR = .13. Results affirmed the multiplicity of the factors influencing parents and preschool teachers in their deliberations about readiness for school. Further, preschool teachers' perceptions of readiness for school were predictive of the child's adjustment to school as measured by Year One teachers, supporting the judgments of preschool teachers in this regard. Results from this study supported the importance of a collaborative approach when making decisions about readiness for school. It also affirmed for occupational therapists the value of assessing children developmentally. Additionally, results supported the need to broaden the intervention focus to occupation-based models of practice when working with children for whom school readiness is questioned.