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Starting School

By creativelearning, Jun 19 2019 03:19PM

School Readiness. It’s a rather confusing term, with hundreds of slightly (and sometimes wildly) contrasting definitions around. It can also mean something different to every setting, every family, and every school. We’ve had lots of questions from parents about their children starting school, so wanted to discuss the concept of being ‘school ready’ a little further, and share how we prepare our children for their transition to ‘big school’.

To begin, it’s no secret that children in the UK actually start school very young in comparison to other parts of the world. A total of 133 countries don’t begin formal learning until the age of 6, whilst 44 countries choose to wait until the age of 7. In an ideal world, we would prefer to do the same, for all young children to learn and develop solely through play.

However, we do not live in an ideal world, and so must adapt to the one in which we do live. The train is moving, and we must jump on board. It is our aim, and our duty, as practitioners, parents and teachers to make it easier for little ones to step off the platform. One of those things we can do is make that platform, those vital early years, solid and purposeful. Laying those bricks of early foundations is as important as anything that comes next.

Starting school is a huge change, even for the most confident of children. It’s a step out of their comfort zone. Everything is new- the layout of the classroom, the diverse ages of children, a new peer group, having to wear a uniform. It’s hard to predict how any child will settle in. This is not to paint the process in a negative light- but an adjustment period is sometimes needed. Don’t be surprised if your child who races into nursery without a backwards glance, suddenly clings to your side tearfully when it’s time to join their new classmates. They are still so little, and it’s a huge change for them.

At Creative Learning we work extremely hard to make this transition as smooth as possible. This starts with a deep understanding of each individual child, using a targeted key person approach.

We also develop meaningful relationships with families, as it’s not just the child who needs to be ‘school ready’. Often, when the time comes to leave nursery, many of our children have been with us since they were tiny babies and as you can imagine, we have built up a relationship over that time with the whole family. As a result we are able to work closely with parents and carers to promote a positive environment from home to school, which is extremely beneficial for the children in our care.

In order to ease the process, teachers are welcomed into preschool to meet the children in a secure, comfortable environment. Practitioners attend transition evenings, write detailed reports on each child, complete tracking, and pass on any information that will help the new teachers get to know their new children. Children must be ready for school, but the school must also be ready for them.

When it comes to preparing the children for the transition ahead, we keep things casual and open. We talk a lot about school, without allowing the subject to becoming overwhelming. We read selected books as part of our usual story time, and encourage a natural curiosity. The idea settles in almost like osmosis. Somehow, knowing that your friends are also leaving nursery – even if they aren’t going to the same school, just knowing that you’re all going through the same thing together, at the same time, helps. Sometimes it’s easier to be brave when you’re part of a group.

When we think about our children being ‘school ready’, it’s absolutely not about promoting compliant behaviour or a formal approach to learning. Nor is it about counting to 100 or writing your name. In thinking about being ready for school, it’s important not to get bogged down in the minutiae. Children are not required to conform to an academic tick-list in order to be considered school ready. Much more important is essential skills such as being able to play cooperatively, take turns, follow instructions, show empathy, take care of their own belongings, and communicate with others. Children should be able to be a functional member of a small group, whilst also being secure in working independently.

It is important to note too that we are not preparing children to learn. This is not necessary, as children are natural learners. What children need is the freedom to be in a richly resourced and well-supported environment, with lots of opportunities for play and communication with both peers and adults, so they can develop their natural skills and capacities. We are proud to provide such an environment, and are careful to strike a balance of children making purposeful choices, and also following adult direction.

We focus on essential pre-writing and reading skills, planning fine motor and language activities for this purpose. We work on cognitive skills such as recognising shapes, colours and counting, which will eventually provide a base for academic mathematical learning. We support children in their physical development- encouraging them in climbing, balancing, throwing and catching balls. We advocate empathy, confidence and looking after their own self-care such as dressing and toileting.

Most importantly- we play, we love, we nurture, we bolster, we instil, we educate, we support. We do all these things so that our children leave us ‘school ready’ in ways that are nothing to do with a checklist of academic achievements. When that train pulls away from the platform, they will be ready for the journey that lies ahead, for all the places they will go.

And, always, they will be able to hear us cheering them on.

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