Ready for school, or school readiness program? Same, same – but different
The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Sector.
In the year before children commence formal schooling, some centres and services offer a program within their preschool space, labelled “school readiness” – but what does it mean, to become ready for school? In this piece, Early Childhood Teacher Melinda Weigert shares her thoughts on how to best prepare children for the world of school, and explores her views on best practice in the school readiness space.
For children in the year before starting formal schooling, preparation is vital. Often one of the first questions parents of children in this age group will ask is “how do I get them ready for school?”
Ideally, shortly before transitioning to school from childcare, time would be given for children to visit their new educational setting, meet their new teacher and classmates, and explore the surroundings of their new environment. There are many changes which come from moving from an early learning space into the world of formal schooling, and it’s important that early learning services provide children with the opportunity to share their personal feelings and experiences during this transition phase.
During this transition, early childhood services and their educators and teachers should support children’s emotions – both negative and positive – about the change that is ahead of them with full collaboration and open communication with the children’s families.
Thinking about practicalities
On a practical level, educators can support children to further develop self-help skills, such as opening lunchboxes, using water bottles, being able to go to the toilet, and getting dressed/undressed without assistance.
Some of the skills which the New South Wales Department of Education recommend children develop prior to transitioning to school include:
– using the toilet independently
– putting on their school shoes and walking in them
– dressing in their school uniform
– writing alphabet letters
– drinking from bubblers
– cutting and pasting pictures from a magazine and drawing pictures.
Recommendations to support families at this time include giving verbal feedback and reassurance about their child’s progress and wellbeing, and organising a school readiness information session with a guest speaker from a local primary school.
Other suggested activities to do together as a family to prepare for the transition to school include:
- Check out the local library and let your child choose books to borrow
- Take a ball to a park to throw, catch and kick together
- Organise a picnic with a packed lunch and encourage your child to open it and eat the food by themselves
Families and educators working together
The notion of being ‘ready for school’ is the learning curve that begins from the first day of care until the child’s final day. It is a journey that requires effective and collaborative partnerships between children, families and educators, providing a solid foundation for children to thrive, both emotionally and socially.
To be ‘ready for school’ requires early learning services to ‘celebrate’ parents and carers as children’s ‘first teachers’. Parents will always have more knowledge and understanding of their child than early childhood educator and teachers. Parental values and beliefs, lifestyle, cultural and religious morals have been shaping each individual child’s view on life long before children enter care. This knowledge and understanding must be respected and sought by early childhood educators and teachers as they build strong and working partnerships with parents and carers and also use this information in our inclusive educational programs to further shape and extend children’s learning.
Aligning centre philosophy with school readiness
A centre’s philosophy also holds an important role in determining what it means to be ‘ready for school’, as it functions as a summary of the centre’s values and beliefs, and outlines how children are being prepared for ‘big school’ and later life.
Preparing children to be ‘ready for school’ requires early childhood educators and teachers to spend quality time with the children and follow their interests, using these interests as the basis for all extended learning activities and environments to further children’s knowledge and life-skills, such as:
- being able to express their own feelings and needs
- being confident
- believing in themselves
- loving themselves and others
- being curious
- being adventurous
- being respectful of others and the environment.
The life-skills and qualities mentioned above are also closely aligned and resonate with the Early Years Learning Framework Outcomes:
- Children have a strong sense of identity
- Children are connected with and contribute to their world
- Children have a strong sense of wellbeing
- Children are confident and involved learners
- Children are effective communicators.
More information about school readiness can be found on the Starting Blocks website.