What is School Readiness?

As a former Deputy Head and Reception Class Teacher I’ve been asked to comment on the new survey released today that says that 8 out of 10 school leaders report that many children arriving at primary school are not ready to take part in classroom activities.

Of these, 86 per cent were concerned that children’s school readiness is worse than five years ago. The findings come from a new survey of school leaders published today by NAHT and the Family and Childcare Trust.

Learning begins at birth. By the time children turn three, they have already begun laying the foundation for life-long learning and success.

Making the most of early learning moments at home can be the difference between a fragile beginning and a strong start at school.

But what exactly is School Readiness?

School readiness is always causing a lot of confusion for parents and often for childcare practitioners because school readiness is vaguely described in the foundation stage as “Children reaching a good level of development in the prime areas and literacy and mathematics”.

But I think school readiness goes much deeper than this, a school ready child should be displaying many other characteristics & skills – parents should be helping & encouraging their children to be curious, confident and ready to learn.

We rob children to the best start to their learning by doing everything for them and by not teaching them how to go to the toilet themselves, to put on their shoes, or do up their coats independently.

We do them a grave disservice by not singing nursery rhymes and songs with them, reading to them, playing with them, listening and talking to them, teaching them, eating with them, laughing with them, getting them active & out in the fresh air, helping them make friends, empowering them to do things for themselves & by not putting them to bed at a regular time, or putting firm, fair and consistent boundaries round their behaviour or their technology.

I’m not sure how we reach vulnerable families and guide & teach them the basics of parenting little ones. I know there have been cuts in services but I wonder when families lost their way in knowing these basic milestones and the basics of helping a child to develop their speech and language skills, how to listen , how to share, or how to express themselves competently or go to the loo independently.

PACEY is the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years describes being “school ready” as:

  • having 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.

Some of the expected characteristics that should also be displayed by a child to show school readiness are:

Independence in toileting
The ability to dress themselves
The ability to Understand expected levels of behaviour
Growing Confidence and self-esteem
The ability to take turns and share
The ability to sit still for a short period
The ability to be separated from parents/carers
Basic Communication and language skills needed to communicate their needs, make friends & listen to others
The ability to actively learn and creatively and critically think for themselves.

Children need confident, positive & involved parents and vulnerable families need support, information, guidance and help not finger pointing, judgement or criticism.

As Ellen Broomé, Chief Executive of the Family and Childcare Trust, said

“The Government must make sure that every child can access high quality early education and that parents can get the right support to help them to give their children the best start in life.”