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School Readiness: Enabling a Positive Transition for All Children

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As we approach the end of this school year and we consider our children who will be making the transition to primary school, the topic of school readiness has again become a keen focus for many parents and practitioners. 

The concept of school readiness, however, is not uniform across the board. Parents and early years practitioners often have very different perceptions of what it means to be school-ready. The Kindred Squared Survey 2024 has sparked discussions, with its revealing statistics on various aspects of school readiness, including the disconnect between parents’ and teachers’ views, and even emotive topics like children still being in nappies and about to start school. 

This blog aims to explore some of the perspectives around school readiness, and emphasise the importance of the prime areas of learning, including emotional and self-regulation skills, communication and language, and the vital importance of understanding the unique needs of each of our children,  particularly those with barriers to their development, additional needs or gaps in their experience.

How do we know if a child is school ready?

Being ‘school ready’ assumes that a child has achieved a set of skills and characteristics, that will prepare them for the shift to the school environment. In reality, it is a process and a journey for each individual child that can best be supported by skilled practitioners, parents and home caregivers.

 According to the Kindred Squared Survey 2024, there are seven key characteristics of school readiness which have been explored in a previous blog and can be found here: Getting Parents On Board With School Readiness

These 7 characteristics only serve to highlight that being ready for school is so much more than having a set of academic skills or ticking off statements on a checklist. It is about really knowing each child and what stage they are at in their journey.

child in playground

The Importance of Self-Regulation and Emotional Readiness

One of the most crucial aspects of school readiness highlighted by the Kindred Squared report is self-regulation and emotional readiness. School life revolves around routines, rituals and rules.

Being able to understand and express how we feel is fundamental to being able to ask for help when we need it. For example, to say that we feel sad because we miss our parent, or to say that we feel cold and need our coat and to express that we feel upset about having to share the toy we have been waiting patiently for.

Being able to regulate ourselves also allows us to be still comfortably on the carpet, quiet in the line and to walk away to seek adult help when we need it. These skills are foundational for any successful transition or change. 

Developing these skills early is therefore vital because, considering Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs or The Leuven Scales of Wellbeing, we need to feel secure and comfortable before we are able to engage purposefully with any kind of learning. 

Our emotional state impacts not just our foundations for learning but also our ability to make friends and build bonds with the adults in the environment. 

Reception is the final stage in the EYFS and teachers are experienced at gently modelling the behavioural expectations of the school. It is nevertheless a significant ask for a child who struggles to regulate or express themselves to be able to understand and follow the behavioural expectations of the school setting. 

Supporting the Needs of All Children

Crucial Language Skills

toddler with teacher

On a functional level, language skills encompass our receptive, expressive, and comprehension abilities. In the context of school readiness children need to be able to use them to be able to:

  • Follow Instructions: Understand and act upon instructions given by teachers.
  • Communicate Thoughts and Feelings: Express their needs, likes, and dislikes effectively.
  • Understand Routines: Navigate the daily routines and transitions smoothly.

Ofsted continue to highlight the importance of communication and language within the early years curriculum and provision. The Kindred Squared Survey 2024 shines a spotlight on the ongoing challenges that practitioners and schools are witnessing with each subsequent cohort. 

The cost of living crisis, lack of government funding for SEND and the Covid pandemic (and the consequential impact of increased screen time and limited parental interactions) have all had a part to play in the increased amount of children starting school with language skills below age related expectations.

So how can we support the language development of all of our children, especially those with additional needs or those with English as a second language?

Key Strategies for Supporting Language Development:

  1. Enhanced Interactions: Encourage meaningful interactions through play, storytelling, and daily conversations. Using sustained shared thinking and providing narrative support during activities and daily routines. 
  2. The use of visual aids – The use of visual timetables, flashcards, emoticons and signposts are good practice for all children but are especially useful for those with additional needs. 
  3. Implementation of routines and rituals – Providing consistency of routine and the words to describe those routines, will help all children to understand what is happening next, what behaviour will be expected and how to verbalise it.
  4. Vocabulary Planning – Having a clear plan for explicitly teaching vocabulary and perhaps linking it to quality texts which feature families and situations that are relevant and meaningful for the children. 
  5. Addressing EAL and SEN Needs: Ensuring that tailored support for children with English as an Additional Language (EAL) and Special Educational Needs (SEN) is in place from the start is vital. Engaging in quality training will empower and support staff.
  6. Community and Parental Engagement: Working with our families and local communities to create a supportive environment for language development is key. By building supportive and warm relationships we engender trust and harness every opportunity to collaborate with, encourage and educate our parents.
child eating lunch

Encouraging Independence

Independence is a hugely significant aspect of school readiness and one that parents are often very concerned about. Indeed The Kindred Squared report highlighted the importance of key skills like toilet training and self-care. Supporting parents and encouraging children to develop these skills can really help to ease the transition to school for both child and parent.

Tips for Fostering Independence:

  1. Toilet Training: Work closely with parents to support them in ensuring children are toilet trained before starting school. 
  2. Self-Serve Meals: Encourage children to serve themselves during meals to build independence. Focus on key skills like opening their packed lunches or using a knife and fork.
  3. Dressing Skills: Teach children to put on their coats and shoes, helping their peers will reinforce the value of the skill and provide further opportunities to practise.
  4. Responsibility and Choice: Give children responsibilities and choices within the nursery setting to allow them to practise their critical thinking and decision-making skills. Being heard and having your own ideas being acted upon and responded to positively by others, serves to engender self-confidence and a feeling of worth and belonging.
children lining up

Supporting Transitions for Children with SEND

As we have touched upon, transitions can be particularly challenging for children with SEND or additional needs. The Kindred Squared Survey emphasises the need for additional support and collaboration between parents, practitioners, and specialists to ensure all have the best start in life and experience a positive start to school. 

Strategies for Supporting Transitions:

  1. Individualised Plans: Develop comprehensive transition plans that are tailored to each child’s needs. Ensure parents are an active part of the process from the start and that the voice of the child and parent are at the centre of all decisions made. Plan extra visits to the new setting and provide additional concrete resources to support the process.
  2. Regular Meetings: Hold meetings with parents and specialists to discuss progress and address concerns. 
  3. Specialist Collaboration: Work with specialists to understand and accommodate the unique needs of children with SEND and ensure that all individual plans (IEP’s etc) are up to date with all the information that the new setting will need to ensure the child’s needs are met.

In conclusion, being school ready involves many factors and each child’s stage in the journey will be different. The results of The Kindred Squared Survey 2024 has shed light on the different perceptions and challenges surrounding school readiness. In this blog we have focused on tips for supporting self-regulation skills, language development, independence, and providing tailored support for children with additional needs. By working together, parents and educators can ensure that all children are provided with the tools and support that they need to achieve the most successful transition into school. 

Where to now?

MBK Group provides comprehensive training and resources to support you and your team as you guide your children and families through the transition process. These include:

Our School Readiness Lanyards which are a fantastic and practical resource.

Our School Readiness Resource is perfect for all teams who want to ensure a well-planned and structured transition for their children. 

And finally, our Building Self Regulation in Early Years training will support you and your team in preparing children for the move to school.

 

 

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