top of page

The problem with ‘School Readiness’. (cert-4-£1)

Updated: May 15, 2021

Sorry, the free assessment is unavailable, please try later while we fix the issue!

Cert-4-£1 offer! Read our free blog post, take the free assessment and view your score for free with all certificates available for just £1.

At the end of this post, you can take the assessment and view your results for free. You will then be provided with the option to pay a £1 admin fee for your official Maybird Training printable certificate (PDF doc) which will arrive in your inbox the next working day. Need time to think about it? You can order your certificate anytime after passing the assessment. Happy CPD-ing!

School readiness

I'm an early years educator and childcare lecturer with my own little girl due to start Reception in September 2020. I completely understand parents’ concerns that our pre-schoolers are missing out on ‘mixing’ with other children and the associated opportunities for social development in preparation for Reception year.

I’ve seen a wave of concern, particularly on social media, over how to prepare children for the transition into Reception year this September (2020) when early years settings are closed for the foreseeable future. With this in mind, I will be publishing a special series of blog posts focusing on ‘School Readiness’ for both parents and the early years workforce including the usual free CPD activity at the end of the post.

Before we begin, please remember that schools will take these exceptional circumstances into account. All children will have missed out on their usual socialising in the run up to September which means that Reception teachers will adjust their expectations of children in terms of their ability to settle in, socialise and make new relationships. All schools will be putting support in place for parents and children to help ease the transition from lockdown to school but as you will see:

Parents: you can still do your bit at home to help children adjust to school life and enjoy their new adventure!

Early Years Educators: you can continue to support families and children and share your knowledge, tips and advice regarding transitions with parents during the closures.

In the hope to offer clarity, I kick start the series with a look at what ‘School Readiness’ actually means, followed by practical advice and fun, play-based activities that parents can encourage from home and early years practitioners can share with parents and continue to offer once settings re-open.

So, let’s get started – what is the problem with ‘School Readiness’?

If I asked you what school readiness means, you would be forgiven for thinking that this applies to children who are starting Reception year. What if I told you, that as far as the government are concerned, it actually refers to the transition from Reception to Year 1? The reason for this, as I’m sure you know, is that children in Reception follow the exact same play-based curriculum as in nurseries, preschools and childminding settings – the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS).

In terms of the government ‘School-ready’ is actually a term used to describe those children who reach a ‘good level of development’ by the end of EYFS. So, at the end of Reception, the teacher will fill in the summative assessment of the EYFS profile and that assessment is reported to the government. Children are said to have a good level of development if they have reached the Early Learning Goals in the three prime areas: physical development, communication and language, and personal social development, and two of the specific areas of learning: mathematics and literacy. The media will then report on these assessments, but the problem comes when the general public (and often the media too!) assume this data relates to children starting Reception rather than at the end.

So what’s really going on with our 4 years olds, in a very short space of time is two transitions – the ‘physical’ transition from home or early years setting to Reception, closely followed by the ‘curricula’ transition when children move from Reception (EYFS curriculum) into Year 1 (the National Curriculum). We often overlook that two very different approaches are required for these two transitions.

The good news

The good news for parents and early years educators of children starting Reception is that you only need to prepare children for the ‘physical’ transition because the ‘curricula’ transition comes later, at the end of Reception and requires a different approach at a separate time. The problem with this blurred definition of ‘School Readiness’ however, is when parents assume that we need to prepare children for both the ‘physical’ transition and the ‘curricula’ transition before they start reception. In my experience, apart from being unnecessary at this stage all it does is create pressure on young children and stress for parents at a time when children need love, compassion, understanding and calm.

So, lets separate the two transitions:

1. The ‘physical’ transition from home/early years setting to Reception

2. The ‘curricular’ transition from the Early Years Foundation stage to the National Curriculum (Yr R to Yr 1)

In the months and weeks leading up to September, we only need to be focusing on the ‘physical’ transition.

Early years educators are well aware that the EYFS Prime Areas are fundamental to all learning and development. The prime areas are:

• Personal, Social and Emotional Development

• Communication and Language

• Physical Development

The specific areas are:

· Literacy

· Mathematics

· Understanding of the World

· Expressive Arts and Design

To prepare children for the transition from their home/early years setting to Reception, I’m going to be focusing on the Prime areas within the EYFS because, ironically, in my experience, these areas are often the most overlooked by parents in favour of the specific areas such as literacy and maths.

In my experience as an early years educator – getting this message across to parents was always extremely difficult. I’d have good-intentioned parents convinced that they should be teaching their 4 year old the ‘3 Rs’ before they start Reception, thinking that this was the best thing they could do for their children in order to give them the best start in life. The problem with this approach is that all children are unique and individual and what one 4 year old will be able to do with ease, another won’t and vice-versa so all we can do (as parents and as early years educators) is give them the right foundations from which the teachers in Reception and beyond can build upon.

As an Early Years Educator, I’d be approached several times a day by well-meaning parents, anxious about their child’s perceived lack of reading and writing skills. I found the best thing to do was pull out the then – called “Curriculum Guidance for the Foundation Stage” (we’re talking early noughties here people!) and show them page 8...(I know, It’s possibly a bit sad that I still remember) and I would directly quote this wonderful passage:

“The curriculum for the foundation stage should underpin all future learning by supporting, fostering, promoting and developing children’s[...] positive attitudes and dispositions towards their learning: in particular an enthusiasm for knowledge and learning and a confidence in their ability to be successful learners”

Department for Education and Employment. (2000). Curriculum Guidance for the Foundation Stage. QCA/00/587 Sudbury: QCA

Most often, parents were relieved and delighted to discover that the secret to a child’s school success is not WHAT we teach our children but HOW! I’d then encourage parents to ditch the checklists and tick charts of what their children can and can’t do in favour of just having fun with their children and making ‘learning’ an enjoyable experience – shaping and moulding their child’s attitudes towards learning and future education into a positive one. Unfortunately, if we put children under pressure to ‘learn’ we run the risk of doing the exact opposite of this, turning learning into something that is negative – and that’s really dangerous if you want children to succeed in school.

Now we have cleared that up, I need to mention that promoting children’s positive attitudes and dispositions towards their learning is still embedded in the current EYFS but I just love the wording in the previous guidance and I still refer to it because it is so useful when explaining the important underlying principles of what Early Childhood Education is all about.

So, as far as formal learning goes, sorry to disappoint, but I will not be providing any checklists or tick charts for parents or early years educators to work on between now and September...what I will be publishing is fun, play-based activities, that I have used