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What is School Readiness?

By Mrs Samantha Durrant, Year 5 Teacher

There seems to be an endless stream of boxes that need ticking when it comes to children, their care and parenting. Another one of these is school readiness. We all want our own children to be ready to enter school, equipped with all the essential skills required to thrive. Starting school is a major milestone and the worry of whether they are going to ask for help from their teacher, be able to cope with the routine and structure of a busy school day or be able to wipe their bottom are worries every parent has in the run up to that first day in September.

So what is meant by the term school ready and what should we expect from children starting school? Is it basic concepts of literacy and numeracy or do we value confidence and social skills more? How far should children be self-reliant?

Depending on the pre-school, nursery or school that you ask, the answers tend to be very different.  Below is an outline of what we, at Burgess Hill Girls, feel are key points for parents to be aware of when their daughter is preparing to start school.

✔ Between the ages of four and five, children should be prepared to be separated from their parent or main carer.

✔ Children should be able to clearly demonstrate their ability to listen and follow age appropriate instructions.

✔ Children should show an interest in a variety of subjects, paying attention to the subject or activity they are taking part in.

✔ Children should have enough of a range of vocabulary and language to express their needs, feelings, thoughts or ideas.

✔ Children should be able to identify themselves by name, age, state factors in their life, name family members etc.

✔ Children should be able to interact in an age appropriate way with another child or adult.

✔ Children should be able to interact, share and play, take responsibility for their actions and understand the repercussions for their actions.

✔ Children should be able to focus on and also show interest in the work they are undertaking.

✔ Children should be able to observe, notice, discuss and ask questions about their environment and experiences.

✔ Children should be able to engage with books, have some understanding of words and language.

✔ Children should be able to respond to boundary setting.

✔ Children should be able to vocalise their needs such as toileting, thirst, hunger illness etc.

When nurseries, pre-school and Reception classes are meant to focus on the ‘individual child’, it is hard to look at this list as a one size fits all.  Certainly, much of these points will vary hugely from child to child depending on personalities, life experiences, backgrounds and age.  At Burgess Hill Girls we recognise that children who will just be turning four when they enter school will inevitably have a wide gap of abilities compared to those that will soon be turning five. It is for these very reasons that a personalised learning experience for each child is essential for their successful journey when starting school.

In contrast to the above list, the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY) have recently carried out research amongst those that work with children.  Burgess Hill Girls certainly agrees with the findings from the research. Childcare professionals showed that they were quite clear on what it means to be school ready.  97% agreed that the term “school ready” should be defined as children who:

A less overwhelming list than the first! It is comforting if nothing else to know that the people that are delivering our childcare overwhelmingly agree that none of it has to do with the academic side of school.  In contrast only a third believe that a basic understanding of reading, writing and arithmetic is important. Likewise many expressed a concern that the curriculum for early years is becoming too academic, with 40% saying they would like to see more emphasis on play, and only 4% stating that they would like to see more academic elements.

At Burgess Hill Girls we recognise that a balance in both areas, as in life, is important.There is strong evidence to suggest that children who attend good quality, structured child care settings where the early years foundations stage is delivered by qualified childcare providers, have an increased chance of settling well into school life, equipped with the social and emotional skills necessary to be ‘school ready’. In an ‘outstanding’ setting like ours, we work closely with parents to ensure what is being taught in nursery is being echoed at home. This level of continuity will guarantee that children have a solid foundation on which to build their skills, giving them the best possible chance of being ready for school when the time comes.

Here at Burgess Hill Girls we see a range of children starting school from different backgrounds and settings.  Some have never attended nursery at all whilst some have attended from a very young age.  Being school ready will mean different things to these children but we are ‘ready’ to fully support every child in a way that will allow them to progress at their own pace.