4th April 2023 Early Years Foundation Stage All Posts

School Readiness in the Early Years

‘School Readiness’ is a term widely used within Early Years but now more than ever there are  conflicting views on what the term actually means and what we as practitioners should actively be doing to ensure our preschool children are ‘ready’ for their transition to school.

Is ‘school readiness’ something we can easily define? And does it look the same for all children? As settings, do we have to endorse and promote ‘school readiness’ in our children? How do we know what children should be doing prior to starting school?

As early years professionals, we already know that children learn at their own pace and should not be pushed to develop or learn faster than they are ready to or are capable of, and so, ‘school readiness’ should entail providing opportunities for the children to explore and become familiar with their school uniform; dressing themselves and developing a sense of identity within their school environment and new routines and requirements opposed to more formal, academic focused skills that has been the norm. 

It is our duty as early years practitioners and children’s current ‘key people’ to ensure we are supporting children as best we can ahead of such a big transition, and this support will look different for all children of course, but a great group-focused strategy could be to set up a ‘classroom’ role-play within our your provision, to enable the children to become familiar with the idea of how a classroom will look, what they will need to do and again explore these ideas in their own time, with their peers and through their play, making the whole experience and concept much less daunting, whilst also preparing them for the different type of environment that they will be entering so they feel slightly more prepared when the time comes to begin their visits to their new schools.

Activities such as these not only enable the child to process the upcoming changes in their own time and in their own way, but also enables them to do so within a familiar and supportive environment; surrounded by their familiar peers and key-people, where they feel safe to explore and process any concerns or worries they may have. 

The experience and repetition of these exercises and opportunities that allow children to share information about their individual schools, such as, showing uniforms, logos, learning the names of each other’s classes during group discussions or Circle Time; enables children starting school to develop a sense of ownership of their new school, whilst also developing a sense of ‘approval’ and admiration from their peers about the new adventure they are embarking on.

In my opinion, and as is the case throughout Early Years, each child will react differently to this transition and period of change and so it is difficult to ensure and define ‘school readiness’ as a collective exercise as this truly will mean something different to each child based upon their own individual circumstance, understanding and development. For example, some children may be confident in getting on their own shoes and coat and/or dressing themselves, whereas some children may need support with the fine motor skills required to open zips and packets required for them to be independent during mealtimes at school, and so for some children you would perhaps focus on practising and developing these skills, whilst others will need some support in other areas, and often when preparing for school transition, the most simple areas are overlooked as we are so used to focusing on the academic and formal learning/assessment side of children’s development and ‘readiness’ for school. 

We must remember, that essentially, we are not preparing children for school specifically, we are preparing them for a transition, and this is where our focus should be; less emphasis on writing, phonics and the academic ‘readiness’ of these specific skill sets that we as a sector have become so accustomed to assessing a child’s ‘readiness’ by. Instead, we should be placing more emphasis on the concept of  change,  routines and independence, thinking creatively and proactively, using our knowledge of each individual child within the cohort, identifying what their particular needs, concerns and worries are in relation to this transition and focusing upon what we can do as nurturing and supportive practitioners to support these children through this period of change to make it an exciting, positive experience for all children and will enable them to arrive at school more confident, prepared and willing and able to learn as they adjust to the new environment, people and routines. In essence, during this period we are providing children with transitional skills and confidence for life; if we adequately prepare them for a transition of this scale, in a child-centred and friendly way,  then subsequently the later transitions through the school curriculum and year groups will be significantly easier for them to understand and manage as a result of their early experiences.

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