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The start of a new school term is always exciting, but the transition from nursery to primary school can be both daunting and overwhelming for young children, and although every parent wants their child to settle, they are often unaware how they can support them.
Children aged between 30-50 months and 40-60 months are expected to achieve a range of developmental milestones against the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) to be ‘school ready’. These include: dressing and undressing, using scissors to make cuts in paper, using the correct pencil grip to form recognisable letters of their name as well as recall simple rhymes and numbers from one to ten.
Yet, leaving a setting and starting a new one can be an emotionally daunting and unsettling experience for many children, particularly when there are increased pressures on being ‘school ready’. Sally Dunlop, NDNA Early Years Adviser, believes effective transition procedures require careful planning from all teams and should be rooted in a clear understanding of young children's social, emotional and intellectual needs.
She said: “By offering a carefully planned programme of learning opportunities and experiences developed around the individual interests and needs of each child, the children are prepared socially and emotionally for the next steps in life, ensuring a smooth transition from nursery into school.
“This process should focus on language and literacy, developing thinking and listening skills, self-control, self-confidence, independence and the ability to form relationships.
“Settings can promote ‘school readiness’ and guide parents on how to extend their child’s knowledge and understanding through a range of activities and resources which ensure there are no big surprises on the first day.”
The vital role parents have in supporting their children’s learning and development as they move through the foundation years is widely recognised. To ensure a smooth transition, parents are advised to talk about the impending changes and focus on encouraging children’s independence.
‘School readiness’ also means children are prepared to use the developmental skills they have learnt already and apply this to their future learning, particularly in literacy, mathematics, physical development, including health and self-care, and self-confidence.
’Building basic skills’
To help encourage these developmental skills and to support early learning, experienced early years teachers Jo Stoney and Lisa Wall have created Ready Steady School, a series of educational resources.
Ms Stoney, managing director of Ready Steady School, said: “Every parent wants their child to settle, progress and thrive in their first year of school but often do not know how to support them. The lack of comprehensive pre-school games and activities backed up by educationally sound concepts that are readily accessible for parents in the market propelled us to develop a series of ‘Ready Steady School’ boxes.
“Before starting school, building basic skills by practising simple everyday tasks helps children develop confidence and independence, while learning some letter sounds and numbers also builds a good foundation and can ensure a flying start at school.
“Research points to the fact that family learning can provide a range of benefits for parents and children, including improvements in reading, writing and numeracy, as well as greater parental confidence in helping their child at home.”
Smart and confident start
The personalised ‘Starting School Box’ and ‘Letters and Sounds Box’ support parents and grandparents to guide children as they fulfil specific learning tasks to achieve a smart and confident start.
The Starting School Box incorporates various personalised resources to develop a range of skills including: pre-writing and pre-reading activities such as name writing, motor skill activities such as a lacing shoe and a specially designed pencil case to teach a child to fasten, zip and button in preparation for getting themselves dressed and undressed.
Similarly, the Letters and Sounds Box has been designed to include fun, family-friendly and practical activities to develop the following skills: listening and language, rhyme and alliteration, letter sounds, segmenting, blending, reading and writing simple words.
Within the box, ‘Tom and Pom's Letters and Sounds’ board game also provides a systematic approach to the clear stages involved in learning how to read and write and contains the tools to support learning at home. The materials and ideas complement all phonic approaches used in UK schools and are compatible with the Department for Education's (DfE) letters and sounds programme.
Hannah Cockell, mother of Beth, from Skipton, North Yorkshire, added: “I’ve been so worried about my daughter starting school but these resources have been so helpful for me to prepare myself for the transition and to help her journey. My daughter has been really excited to use the toys and resources with me – it’s made a real difference in helping us all look forward to the first day of school together.”
Adrian Warner, a father and user of the phonics box, added: “After searching for comprehensive resources to support our youngest learning to read and write we discovered Ready Steady School and their phonics box. As a family we have enjoyed sharing the activities and games and our daughter's confidence with letter sounds to make words has improved greatly. Even her older sisters have taken on the role of 'teacher'.”
A Department for Education (DfE) report released in 2015 revealed that more than two-thirds of children aged five-years-old are making good progress against the EYFS.
As part of the Government’s commitment to achieving higher standards in every setting, an extra 38,600 five-year-olds are now reaching the expected level of development in maths and literacy. This means they can count to 20, describe weight and shapes in everyday language, write their own name and read simple sentences.
The previous Education and Childcare Minister, Sam Gyimah, said: “We know that the first few years of a child’s life are vital in terms of how well they go on to do at school and beyond. It is great news that more children than ever before are achieving the expected level of development in the early years. Parents should be confident that while their children are out of their care, they’re not only happy and having fun, but at the same time developing important skills.”
However, according to the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY), almost three quarters of parents were anxious about their child starting school last year.
A survey of 2,000 parents revealed they were most concerned about their child making friends and settling into a routine, while one in ten parents were also worried about increased academic pressures on their child.
To avoid anxieties, Penny Tassoni, president of PACEY believes movement through the early years should be seen as a journey at both the child’s home and their setting. She has shared three tips with parents to help children be ‘ready for school’. These are: encourage new friendships, encourage independence and increase children’s concentration.
Getting ready to start and progress through the Foundation Stage is not just about turning up on the first day, it is about families preparing together in the weeks and months ahead of taking the ‘big step’. With the right tools, parents can help their child’s skills develop so they start school with confidence from the very beginning.
For more information, visit: http://www.readysteadyschool.org/index.html