Cathy Nutbrown, Children’s Rights and Education (1996)
Sarah Teather, Children’s Minister 2010-12
‘School Readiness’ is a much debated phrase and usually provokes deeply held convictions that ‘children need to be ready to be children’ within Early Years.
At Our Monkey Club, we understand that realistically our children will be attending Primary School from the September after their 4th birthday. We want this experience to be as successful and enjoyable for them as possible and therefore we work very closely with all our children throughout their time with us to ensure they have the life skills to make this possible.
Key issues for ‘school readiness’ in the latest Ofsted report (Are You Ready? Good Practice in School Readiness, 2014) are a lack of progress in the 3 Prime Areas (Communication and Language / Personal, Social and Emotional Development / Physical Development). Our priority is to ensure our children develop these key life skills that will enable them to progress successfully and we focus on the ability to learn through the development of effective learning skills (Characteristics of Effective Learning).
In our centre we aim for our children to understand that they are capable of learning effectively and to feel confident learners. Our systems are designed to support your child to be motivated to learn and become competent, confidence, communicative and creative learners. It is these skills that we consider to be life skills that will ensure that your child’s school experience will be a positive one for them.
Talking about children being ‘ready for school’ can sometimes make it feel as though we’re always looking ahead to the next step. The learning that your child is doing now and has been doing since birth is just as important as the learning that will happen at school.
The first few years of your child’s life are when most brain connections are formed. Therefore, stimulating activities and experiences, appropriate to your child’s stage of development, are valuable in their own right. If we’re always preparing for the next stage, we can forget about the opportunities in the present and miss out on the fun!
Key architectural structures are created in the brain during this time and this opportunity does not present itself again. Opportunities to understanding their emotions, develop strong social abilities and develop their physical abilities enabling them to control each muscle in their bodies to enable future skills to develop such as writing, sports and attention. Play based learning supports children to avoid long term mental health issues, improves attention and physical control and enhances child’s ability to be independent. These are benefits that cannot be replicated through any other approach to learning. Quality play experiences at this stage are what childhood was created for.
The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)
As well as being used in nurseries as our statutory guidance, the EYFS is the guidance for in reception classes, so these principles continue to be key as your child starts school so the expectations should not change. We will send detailed information to your childs school about your childs motivations, approaches to learning and current skills and abilities. Your childs new teacher should then seamlessly support your child based on this information.
One key issue with transitioning to school is the sudden grouping of a whole year which means that some children will be at very different points developmentally. This means, for example, that an August baby should not be compared with a September baby, because each child is viewed as unique, and at an individual stage of development. The EYFS supports the view that the school should be ready for the child, rather than the child ready for the school.
Although having a ‘curriculum’ for children from birth to five sounds quite formal, the EYFS emphasises that ‘play is essential for children’s development, building their confidence as they learn to explore, to think about problems, and relate to others.’ So giving your child lots of opportunities to play and develop skills to play with ideas, narratives and concepts is the most important way to get them ready for school.
A recent survery by Derbyshire Couty council of thousands of schools and early years settings came up with 10 keys to readiness which may surprise you and we certainly work towards at Our Monkey Club.
10 Keys for being 'School Ready'
- I can settle happily without my parent/carer
- I can talk to friends and grown-ups about what I need
- I can take turns and share when I am playing
- I can go to the toilet on my own and wash my hands
- I can put on my own coat and shoes and feed myself
- I can tell a grown up if I am happy, sad or cross
- I know that what I do and say can make others happy or unhappy
- I am curious and want to learn and play
- I can stop what I am doing, listen and follow simple instructions
- I enjoy sharing books with grown-ups and talk about them
“The term ‘School Ready’ is used extensively by politicians and in the media to mean many different things but there is no clear national definition of what being ready for school actually means. In Derbyshire we felt that we needed to create a definition with those who live and work with 0-5 year olds.
We felt that having a definition of being ‘Ready for School’ would help parents and professionals to feel confident about developing the right skills and attitudes in young children to set them off on a happy and successful path of learning ready for the start of the Reception year, when children have their fifth birthday.
We were delighted by the strength of response to the Ready for School survey, with over 1,800 forms completed by parents and professionals from all over Derbyshire. Follow the link to see our easy to read report on the results.”
Thinking about getting your child prepared for the transition?
Supporting your child to develop secure and strong relationships with you and other special people is one of the best ways you can help them to be ready for school. Positive relationships help your child to see themselves as good and learn about emotions. This enables them to develop the self-confidence to express themselves and ask for help, the emotional resilience to deal with change and challenges, and the ability to form relationships with new people, all essential skills at school.
Practical steps, such as encouraging your child to be independent when going to the toilet, getting dressed or opening a lunch box, will also make school life easier for them and allow them to feel confident they can manage daily tasks. Understanding how to experience and understand their emotions and express themselves safely about their fears, anxieties and frustrations will be vital in supporting childrens emotional journey.
Although the first year at school will give children the opportunity to slowly transition from a play-based curriculum to a more formal structure and adult led activities it should still be predominately about play. However to aid the transition to a heavily languaged based teaching approach, communication skills are key. Activities such as reading stories and discussing what they found most exciting; talking about different sounds they can hear in the environment and recreating them; modelling effective listening and responses to your child when engaged in conversation; will all develop your child’s listening and expressive skills.”
Helping your child be ready for school
- Talk with you child about school life and the types of tasks they will do, who they will play with and who will keep them safe.
- Show them pictures of changes in advance such as school uniforms, play spaces and people such as teachers and teaching assistants.
- Start to have an open conversation about the things they are excited about and the things they will miss. An open dialogue will allow them to be more prepared and practice to express worries later knowing they will be accepted.
- Maintain a joy and celebration of learning rather than making learning seem task like and outcome based. If children enter school feeling that learning is fun they are more likely to engage well.
What about reading and writing?
Many parents worry that their child should be able to recognise letters and write their name before they start school, but this is really not necessary!
It’s far more important to put in place the foundations needed for successful literacy learning, and not to rush your child into formal learning before they’re ready. Children in many European countries don’t start learning formal literacy skills until they’re six or seven, yet go on to perform as well as, if not better than, English children. We know the muscles in children’s hands, their nervous system and the neurological systems are immature and we do not develop the physical attributes we need to star writing until about 7 years old.
We often still work with research that is outdated in our education system however to ensure your child starts to build these systems its important to help children learn how to use their whole bodies including their shoulders muscles (vital for hand writing), their eyes as they need to control to move across the print and having children explore how to receive sensory feedback from their fingers in messy play. We often focus children on starting to learn skills their bodies aren’t ready for but if we start with developing their bodies and minds they will learn more naturally and with less frustration felt by both you and your child.
While its is vital a child learns about stories, reading will come when a child is ready if they have enough experience of the written language and how stories are constructed. Long term academic success in literacy is strengthed by storytelling and constructive narratives in role play and games in comparison with rote learning and phonics. By 12 years old the children that have a sound understanding of stories and narratives will perform better than children with a history of phonics and rote learning. This is because higher level reading skills and literacy skills are based on interpretation of language, intent and interpretation which only comes from understanding how to listen to and tell a story.
So, focus on developing your child’s communication and language skills by telling and reading stories and singing rhymes, talking together and encouraging mark making for fun and in play. If they first understand that text carries meaning and writing is useful, they will be far more motivated to learn to read and write because it will be purposeful for them.
From one parent to another parent…
Above all enjoy the last few months with your child. Once school starts nothing is ever quite the same, so enjoy your time with them and cherish every lazy start, every morning at the park and snuggles in the afternoon. Soon they will have a new adventure but remember to let them enjoy what they have now.