Is your child ready to start school?
Lucy Pickles & Charlotte Cairncross
14 December 2018
We all know that starting school can be the most exciting time in your child’s life but also the most daunting! Transitioning from a preschool, long day care or in-home care to formal schooling is a huge change for the whole family.
What is school readiness?
School readiness refers to a child’s ability to make a successful and smooth transition to formal schooling. Schools have expectations of what students need to be capable of and the participation in a high-quality and effective school readiness program will assist your child in developing the skills and abilities necessary to thrive in their new classroom environment.
It is typically thought that academics are the most important skills necessary to begin formal schooling. However, school readiness actually refers to a much broader range of skills including language, literacy, cognitive, self-help, emotional, social, gross motor, fine motor and creative skills.
Why is school readiness important?
If your child was to begin school without the basic skills you may find them having to play ‘catch up’ to those children who started school with the basic skills already mastered.
Primary school teachers work in a classroom with 20 plus children, making it difficult for them to provide intensive one on one support. By giving your child the opportunity to develop the skills necessary to thrive in a classroom environment, it will only further develop their confidence and independence, whilst also encouraging their love for learning.
What can you do as a parent?
Families play a vital role in supporting a child’s readiness for school. Your child will thrive at school in the long term when they have had the opportunity to develop the necessary skills through play, in a secure and high-quality learning environment.
We have outlined the foundations necessary to give your child the best start as they begin the next stage of their learning journey.
Children of school age need to have a wide vocabulary, to ensure they can effectively communicate with peers and teachers. They should be capable of listening and following instructions correctly as directed by the teacher. Ideally, children should speak at a volume in which they can be heard, and in a grammatically correct manner with extended sentences. It is also important that children can express their ideas and feelings, contribute to group conversations, and ask for help when needed.
As your child starts school it is important that they have an awareness of both written and visual text. He or she should know how to use a book and understand basic print concepts, such as knowing that printed words convey meaning.
During the school day it is necessary that children are alert and interested in order to be able to finish tasks. Your child should be able to name and recognise basic colours and shapes, remember events, and recognise their own name in text. Children should also have developing numeracy skills and an understanding of early mathematical concepts.
At school your child will be expected to dress themselves, go to the bathroom unassisted, and maintain a level personal hygiene. It is also required that they open and close their own lunch boxes, feed themselves, as well as recognise and take responsibility for their own belongings.
Children should be emotionally secure and have a positive self-image. It is important that your child is able to separate from you without becoming unsettled, remaining happy and content for most of the day. It is also essential that your child can accept directions from adults and cope with minor changes, frustrations or disappointments.
It is crucial for your child’s self-esteem and development that they have strong social skills. They need to be able to work both collaboratively within a group or happily by themselves. Children should have also developed a social personality and positive relationships with both peers and other familiar adults.
Your child will need strong gross motor skills by the time they commence formal schooling. This is required to not only support them in sitting up straight during class time, but to also engage in play during physical education lessons and during breaks. Children need to be able to confidently run, jump, climb and skip. They need to be confident in walking across a beam and should have established a dominant hand that coincides with a dominant foot that can see them have good ball control.
By the time your child is starting school it is important that they have established a dominant hand and grip, as well as comfortably being able to hold and operate scissors. Children will also need to have good hand-eye coordination, which is required for activities such as writing, drawing, cutting and threading.
At the commencement of formal schooling, your child would enjoy participating in musical and/or group activities. They should engage in creative play such as art, drawing and storytelling and should have an awareness of music types recognising rhythms.
There is only one shot at making a successful and easy transition to school. It is important to give your child the best foundations to create a positive and happy experience for them in those first precious moments as they enter the classroom for the first time. By identifying whether or not your child is ready to start school, and taking steps to support any areas in which they require further support, you will ensure that your child excels in all areas at school.
At no point should it ever be a stressful experience, but rather a fun way to help prepare your child for that first day. It is important for parents to remember that schools can teach literacy and numeracy, however those emotional, social and self-help skills are the most important things that you, as a parent, can teach them to give them the best start in their schooling career!