Whether or not children are ready for school has become one of the most talked about issues at nursery pick-up time, and this issue continually hits the headlines. However, there is no nationally accepted definition of ‘school readiness’, so what is meant when this phrase is used?
There are many perspectives on this. For a child, school readiness could mean being emotionally mature enough to leave their parent for the whole day; for a reception class teacher it may mean a child can take themselves to the toilet unaided, change for PE with little support and be ready to participate in class activities. For parents, school readiness could mean that their child will settle in quickly. For practitioners in settings, it could mean encouraging children to gain more independence and play cooperatively.
According to PACEY (2013), 97% of childcare professionals agree that the term should be defined as children who:
- have strong social skills
- can cope emotionally with being separated from their parents
- are relatively independent in their own personal care
- have a curiosity about the world and a desire to learn.
Interestingly, very few teachers or practitioners believe that a definition should include having a basic understanding of reading, writing and arithmetic. These basic literacy and numeracy skills can easily be learned when the child is ready, what is more important at this time of transition is that children develop the positive dispositions and attitudes that will stand them in good stead for future learning. They need to enjoy school and cope with this transition.
There are many ways that you can improve continuity with local schools. Why not:
- Build relationships with your main feeder schools and discuss the information that would be most useful to share on transfer
- Invite older children to come and talk to your children about starting school
- Invite parents from last year back to alleviate current parents’ concerns
- Engage in school and setting joint ventures – attend the school’s sports day and invite teachers to special events at your setting
- Work closely with parents to help schools to be child-ready
- Offer information sessions for parents on topics such as ‘preparing your child for school’ or ‘making chatterboxes to help with communication’.
To support the children you could:
- Provide some school uniform in the roleplay area
- Find out if the local schools use a system for quietening the children and use it (clapping or ‘hands on top, that means stop’)
- Introduce a self-registration system for children
- Practice changing into shorts and T-shirts for mini PE sessions
- Teach children to put on coats (the upside down method is fantastic for this!)
- Include photo books about the local schools in your book area
- Create transition packs, like story sacks, with lovely stories about starting school
- Encourage children to talk about going to school – listen to their worries, share in their excitement, and try and focus on the similarities that school has with setting
- Foster the characteristics of effective learning in your children.
Whether or not children are ready for school, it will loom on the horizon at some point in the child’s life. Children are not being prepared for school but for life; we are laying the foundations for lifelong learning, so let’s get it right.
About the author
Tamsin Grimmer is an experienced early years consultant and trainer and parent who is passionate about young children’s learning and development. She believes that all children deserve practitioners who are inspiring, dynamic, reflective and committed to improving on their current best. Tamsin particularly enjoys planning and delivering training and supporting early years practitioners and teachers to improve outcomes for young children.