Guest Blog post written by Headteacher Em from Every Day’s A School Day
Em has been teaching for over 10 years mostly in Foundation, Year 1 and Year 2. She has also been a Headteacher for 6 years in both a small village Primary School and a large coastal Primary School. She loves working with children and families although she says ‘it regularly drives me to reach for the Prosecco!’
School readiness is usually a phrase which is bandied about quite regularly at this time of year. I started writing this post back in early February thinking this year would be like any other; with the normal school taster sessions, opportunities to spend time getting ready with other children whether at pre-school or classes and parental worries being at a ‘manageable level’ along with the excitement. How wrong could I have been?
I have a four-year-old who is due to start school in September and, as a Primary Headteacher and Early Years Specialist, I was feeling confident that she would be ‘ready’ for school. I am sure that I’m not alone now with my worries starting to bubble about what will happen for her and all of the other children due to start school in September facing possibly a very different transition to the ‘norm.’ Here I will try to put your mind at ease, if at all possible, and give some ideas about how you can go about developing ‘readiness’ during these uncertain times.
Firstly, I want to say that while it is really worrying and scary, you are not alone and your children are not alone. This situation is affecting us all and because of that schools will respond with some actions. I cannot predict exactly how or what each school will put in place but I know that this will be thought carefully about. Right now schools are supporting their current families and children through this situation but they will also be thinking ahead. Primary School allocations are still due to be communicated on 16th April and after this, depending on the situation with lockdown/ social distancing etc, schools will begin to communicate a plan for their new starters. We may have to be patient with this as, I’m sure you can imagine, it is going to take much more planning that usual and will need to be subject to flexibility and change as we move through the summer.
But with all of this upheaval are you worried whether your child will be ready? The difficult thing about this question is that being ‘ready’ looks different for each child, current situation or not. Birth month, personality traits and level of confidence all have an effect and it’s very normal to worry that your child won’t be ‘ready.’ Just because your little one doesn’t like leaving your side at the moment, or they’re not completely potty trained 24/7 or they can’t recite the alphabet and their 10 times table it doesn’t mean that they won’t be ready! As a teacher I have lots of parents at this point in the year who feel like their children aren’t ready and I love to use that clever word ‘yet’ to reassure them. “They aren’t ready yet, but it’s amazing what 6 months can do” I very often say, and it’s true! I really believe that even at the moment children have the potential to be ‘ready’ by the time school comes around.
Children develop at different rates and will be at different points in their learning both socially and academically right now. This will be the same when they start school. Children are remarkably resilient and adaptable. Yes, their ‘readiness’ will be affected by what is happening currently but the key thing to remember here is that schools will prepare for this. Teachers know that children are all beautifully unique, it’s usually one of the reasons they do the job; because every child, class and year group are different making it a diverse job where no two days are the same! In terms of being ready, as long as your child can manage being separated from you for the day then school will be able to support them, whatever their abilities. If separation is a concern or if you are worried about specific needs then you will have an opportunity to communicate with the class teacher before your child starts and you can talk about the best ways to support them. Usually this communication is via a parent meeting, home visit or settling session. This may not all be available this year but there will still be phone calls or emails.
Of course, there are lots of things you can do while at home to help prepare your child for school, many of them are simple and easy to achieve. Here are a few ideas about how you can start getting your little one ready, even if school is still a couple of years away!
Reading to children is one of the most powerful tools for developing language, understanding and creativity so do it as much as you can! There are lots of lovely stories about the subject of starting school too. Personally, we love the ‘Goose’ stories by local artist Laura Wall. ‘Goose goes to School’ is a fun story to start talking about what school is like. Usbourne First Experiences have ‘Going to School’ and there are lots of others featuring favourite characters such as Charlie and Lola ‘I am too absolutely small for school’, ‘Harry and the Dinosaurs go to School’ and ‘Hugless Douglas goes to Little School.’
Communication is one of the most important skills for school starters so talking to your child and giving them lots of opportunities to develop their language is key. Tell your child about what is going to happen in the day, discuss problems that arise, ask for their ideas and encourage them to talk to other children and adults. Using online ways to communicate at the moment is perfect for this, children can learn some great questioning and listening skills from talking to friends and relatives online. Give them phrases that they can use to initiate conversation with others. Teach them how to ask for or communicate important things such as when they are hurt, need the toilet and feel sad or poorly. Set up some role play scenarios at home where you can model these things e.g a nursery for teddies or a playground with little figures. Pretend to be different characters asking for help or starting to play with each other. Even the really basic ‘Can I play with you? What’s your name?’ is important to model for children.
Opportunities to interact with others:
So, I wrote a section in my original draft about how brilliant it is to get out and about to classes or playgroups, but right now these aren’t physically an option. Luckily the online world is still providing some great ways to get involved and interact with others. While this is in the comfort of your own home, your child will still have loads of brilliant opportunities to explore what it might be like at school. The elements where children need to listen and concentrate, even for short periods, will really help develop listening and responding skills ready for school. There are lots of free and paid for classes available, check out the calendar section here on Little Devon to see what might interest you and your child.
Developing your child’s independence is important. Encourage your child to do things for themselves such as getting dressed, going to the toilet, eating lunch and organising items for going outside such as coats, wellies etc. These are things they will need to do at school all by themselves, so lots of practice beforehand will really help.
I wish you lots of luck with the next weeks and months. I know that the unknown feels scary and worrying. Ultimately, what you need to know is that Reception teachers are the most kind, caring and magical people I’ve ever met and they will completely look after your child whatever their state of ‘readiness’ and however the transition needs to happen. So try to enjoy this time as much as you can, it is certainly a period we will all remember, and hopefully one that we can look back on and cherish some of the memories we made.
Every Day’s A School Day
For more blogs about starting school which include some other practical ideas for preparation, check out www.edasd.co.uk. We are working hard on getting our workshops and school readiness programme ‘Ready Teddy Go’ available online in the coming weeks. Visit the website or find us on instagram or facebook for more information.
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I’m Emma, from Every Day’s a School Day which was set up by Vix and I to offer support to parents about pre-school and early Primary School. Our website and social media pages have information about learning and easy ideas to do with young children. We run workshops and parent and child school readiness classes. We want to break down the barriers between home and education settings and help parents and children to feel really confident in their learning.