Blog: What does school readiness look like?

School readiness is always a hot topic at this time of year, but especially now as the early years Covid cohort starts to transition into primary school. Many of these children will have spent a large proportion of their childhood in lockdown, missing out on the opportunity to socialise with their peers and develop key skills.  A recent survey conducted by YouGov suggested that half of all children are not ready to start school, and in some settings that has risen to 90%. 

But what does being 'school ready' actually mean? A few years ago Ofsted (who inspect schools and children's services in England) released a list of skills that would be helpful for children to have before starting school -  and parents may be surprised to learn that phonics, writing and maths are not on the list.

Here are some of the skills that are useful to practise with your child in everyday life: 

I can sit still and listen 

Schools don't expect children to sit still and listen for the whole day - that's hard even for grown ups - but developing listening skills is essential to communication, play, keeping safe and developing thinking and concentration skills. Model good listening with your child, chat with them and really listen to their responses. In order to become a good listener, children need to know what it feels like to be listened to. 

I am aware of other children 

Relationships with the people around us are so important and children learn a lot about appropriate behaviour and 'rules' which can help them get on with others. Children learn from everyone! Watch your child next time they play with others and talk to them about how they interact with their friends. Relationships are at the heart of leaning, whether it's in the playground or in the classroom. 

I can talk in sentences and I can speak to an adult to ask for help 

Talking helps children to develop their thinking and builds confidence - children get better at it when they have somebody who joins in, talks, listens and tries to understand. This confidence will seep into other areas: asking for help, communicating with friends and expanding language.

I am potty trained and can go to the toilet 

Everyday activities encourage children to learn how to look after themselves. Routines such as using the toilet, wiping, flushing, pulling pants up and washing hands is a sequence which can be repeated again and again. This in turn grows independence, and will save you - and school staff - a lot of time in the bathroom. If there is a part of the sequence that a child is struggling with, such as remembering to flush, it's worth breaking the routine down and focusing efforts on helping them master that particular part. 

I can recognise my own name 

Names are a core part of our identity and using children's names in a positive way builds confidence and self esteem. Help children to recognise their own name by celebrating it!  Make name placemats for dinner or write it in bubble writing and get them to decorate it - the added bonus is that having fun together with your child's name shows them that they are important. 

I can open and enjoy a book 

Have you ever had to read your child's favourite book over and over again? This familiarity with language, characters and pictures breeds confidence and encourages children to become 'readers' themselves. Knowing what happens next, joining in with the re-telling (made up or from memory, rather than reading the text themselves) and being able to name familiar things in pictures gives children a real sense of achievement. It's an important building block in learning to read and will spur them on to open, and enjoy, new books as well as old favourites.  

I can understand the word 'No' and the borders it sets for behaviour, and I understand the word 'stop' and that such a phrase might be used to prevent danger 

Children sometimes struggle to put into words what they are feeling, so their feelings come out in their behaviour. Support and encouragement is important, as is staying safe. Talk to your child about how words such as 'stop' may be used to keep them out of danger - explore songs and stories which will communicate this in a positive way. 

I can take off my own coat  and I can put on my own shoes 

Life skills such as taking off a coat and putting on shoes are often the first big steps towards independence for young children. We do these everyday tasks without thinking but children need us to break it down into chunks for them to be able to grasp them. Time and patience are needed here, and maybe a little bit of fun too. Have you ever seen the coat flip? Look it up, it's genius!  

Making these skills a part of daily life will help with the transition into school, and the familiarity of these tasks will underpin confidence at the start of the school journey. If your child isn't at this stage yet, do not worry - teaching and support staff will be there to encourage and help all children. 

If you are a Peep practitioner then log into your Members area and search transition or school readiness - you will find Peep resources to support each of the skills listed above.