What is all the fuss about school readiness and how do practitioners play a part?
School readiness is always causing a lot of confusion for parents and often for childcare practitioners. 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”. School readiness goes much deeper than this, a school ready child should be displaying many other characteristics.
Parents often believe school readiness is something that a child should be achieving before starting reception class, but this could be better described as ready for the school transition. School readiness should be displayed just before a child leaves the foundation stage to start year one. Although this is the case childcare practitioners still have an important role to play in supporting and promoting school readiness and school transitions.
Some of the expected characteristics that should be displayed by a child to show school readiness;
- Independent in toileting
- Able to dress themselves
- Understands expected levels of behaviour
- Confidence and self-esteem
- Can take turns and share
- Can sit still for a short period
- Can separate from parents/carers
- Communication and language skills needed to communicate needs and listen to others
- Can actively learn and creatively and critically think
Some of these characteristics may be difficult for all children to achieve and this shouldn’t leave parents or practitioners concerned that a child isn’t school ready. The important thing is practitioners are aware of these characteristics and can put steps in place to ensure a child is developing the skills. Getting support and identifying any areas of weakness early is critical in ensuring the gaps are narrowed, and all children are given the opportunity to reach their full potential. Using documents such as progress summaries and tracking sheets will help identify any areas of weakness, as well as carrying out regular observations.
Many activities or experiences can be offered to children to help school readiness. Some of these include:
- Encouraging a child to wipe their bottoms, using routine widget strips can be useful to remind a child of the necessary steps when toileting such as, toilet, wipe, flush, wash hands.
- Encourage children to take off and put on own jumpers or cardigans; it can be easier and quicker to do this for them but supporting a child to do it themselves will help them to learn the skills needed to be school ready. This can also be done with putting on own shoes and socks.
- Use golden rule charts to show children the expected levels of behaviour in the setting. Keep it positive and express the behaviour you would like to see rather than the behaviour you don’t want see, i.e., we are kind to our friends instead of no fighting
- Praise and encouragement, this should be done as part of every day EYFS practice, promote this further through sharing proud moments in learning journals that the children can see, allow children to display the work they are proud of on display boards rather than practitioners choosing what goes on there.
- Play games, hold circle time sessions that are fun, share stories, sing songs and hold a show and tell sessions. All these will encourage communication and language development, turn-taking and listening skills.
- Importantly share these with parents, so they are aware of other school readiness characteristics and not just EYFS outcomes and expected levels of development. Also, share with parents when exactly school readiness is expected by and ensure they don’t confuse this with being ready for school transition.
School readiness is essential for development and determines a child’s future outcomes so promoting these skills as early as possible is the best way to ensure every child gets the support they need to succeed.