What does it mean to be school ready? By Charlene Orwin – Head of ELC

What does it mean to be school ready? By Charlene Orwin – Head of ELC

As we near the half way mark of the school year, we start to plan and implement processes to successfully set ourselves up for success in the year to come. Parents, too, are starting to think about the changes and decisions that they need to make for the year ahead. Is my child ready to move from creche to Kinder? Is my child going to be ready for Prep? What will high school look like for my child? What subject choices will my young adult be looking at? What Uni’s should we start applying for? Etc etc.

Starting school is a major milestone in the life of a child. Children are seen to be ready for school when they have reached the chronological age for entry as established by the state. However, determining if your child is ready for school is a complex decision and is driven by countless factors. Rather than looking at a child’s age, it is important to look at whether children possess skills that promote their ability to successfully commence school. Research suggests that children who transition to school smoothly and experience early school success, tend to maintain higher levels of long-term social competence and academic achievements.

So what is school readiness? ‘Readiness is what we call the things that assist children to be successful at school. Readiness is not an event that happens at a certain time, it is a process that every child moves through at their own pace’. With this in mind, when considering whether your child is ready for school, families must make decisions based on their individual child’s needs, skills and interests. Looking at knowledge and skills in the areas of numeracy and literacy are helpful, however not the determining factors. The development of these skills should and must be supported when a child is ready and at a pace that the child can cope with. Social development is crucial for school readiness and it is highly important for children to have good social skills and be confident learners in order to set strong foundations for a lifetime of learning.

School readiness is about the development of the whole child – their social and emotional skills, physical capabilities, communication skills and cognitive development. Children cannot thrive at school if they haven’t developed the skills needed to manage things like getting along with other children, following instructions, and communicating their needs.

I would like to break this down further to explain these areas of development more clearly:

SOCIAL skills: this is the ability to get along with other children, demonstrate basic manners, assert themselves, and being able to play .It is determined by their ability to engage in reciprocal interaction with others (either verbally or non-verbally), to compromise with others and to be able to recognise and follow social norms.

EMOTIONAL maturity: Being able to manage their emotions, cope with minimal adult contact in large groups, focus on tasks, follow directions and instructions from teachers, cope with the stress of the new school environment, and understand the rules. A prep child needs to have the ability to perceive emotion, integrate emotion to facilitate thought, understand emotions and regulate emotions (for a child’s own responses to challenges).

SELF REGULATION: The ability to obtain, maintain and change emotion, behaviour, attention and activity level appropriate for a task or situation.

LANGUAGE development: Being able to talk and listen to adults and other children. They need to be able to comprehend the spoken language ( understand what the teacher is saying) as well as to be able to be understood by their friends by speaking clearly and communicating their needs. They need to understand stories, and begin to identify some letters and sounds. A prep child needs to be able to process and follow through with a number of instructions being asked of them at a given time.

COGNITIVE requirements: Basic number sense, basic thinking skills, being able to wait and take turns. Understanding that letters represent sounds that come together to make words and what these letters look like.

EXECUTIVE FUNCTIONING: Higher order reasoning and thinking skills (e.g.What do I need to pack to take to school?).

PLANNING AND SEQUENCING: The sequential multi-step task/activity performance to achieve a well-defined result (e.g. a cut and paste task or a simple maths worksheet).

SENSORY PROCESSING Accurate processing of sensory stimulation in the environment as well as in one’s own body that influences attention and learning that effects how you sit, hold a pencil and listen to the teacher.

PHYSICAL health and co-ordination:  Basic health, fine motor skills (such as being able to grip a pencil and turn pages in a book) and physical coordination (being able to run, jump, climb, and play ball).

INDEPENDENCE:  skills to manage their needs without adult supervision, such as going to the toilet, dressing, unwrapping their lunch and managing their belongings.

Readiness is not about schools just adapting and attempting to meet the needs of individual children. International research emphasises that certain areas of development and maturity are essential for children so that, once at school, they are able to maximise the opportunities provided to them.

Sadly there is a lot of negative stigma associated with doing an extra year of kinder but I need to emphasise that there is no detrimental impact of giving a child an additional year, in fact it is often viewed as a bonus year.  Don’t assume children will magically ‘catch up’ once they start school. In the majority of cases, they don’t, and in reality,  the problems in maturity usually become more pronounced.

Readiness for school is about giving your child the opportunity to make the most of their early years of fundamental learning. Making an informed decision about children and school readiness is paramount to giving children the opportunity to thrive and flourish …… not just to cope,