Is My Child Ready To Start School?
Tam has written this blog to help our families at Free Rangers make a positive transition to school, but we also thought this might be useful to many other families, please read below.
At Free Rangers we believe that if a child is confident in their abilities and can communicate their wants, needs and emotions they are more likely to have a positive transition into school. We develop these skills during our children’s time in the den room. We encourage children to be independent, to risk assess, to take on challenges. We guide children to understand their emotions by ‘emotion coaching’ them. We develop the skills of negotiation, explaining and listening to others. Our children are actively encouraged to dress independently and access their own bags. This doesn’t come without it’s challenges as we can be helping a child then turn around to find two children have decided to change their clothes leaving all their belongings on the floor! This process is not easier for the nursery staff however we know that children need to learn to be independent, take responsibility for their belongings and actions. Imagine the school classroom getting ready for physical education class and all the school clothes look the same with up to thirty children getting changed at the same time. Free Rangers children are encouraged to look after themselves and their belongings, in fact we have been lucky enough to have feedback from local schools who say, ‘we know who the Free Rangers children are because they show increased confidence and can organise themselves, their belongings and are ready to learn.’
Many people focus on the ‘specifics’ of learning, literacy, maths, writing. They get caught up in the idea that a child should be writing their own name and able to do sums by the time they start school. At Free Rangers we know that if a child cannot ‘function’ at school, if they don’t have the confidence in themselves and their abilities they won’t learn. Children who worry about using the toilet, changing their clothes, how to organise their belongings will not be able to focus on their learning. Don’t get us wrong, at Free Rangers we encourage children to develop their skills in the specific areas depending on each child’s abilities and desire to learn however it is the prime areas that we know need to be there to pave the way for learning once in infant school. Your child's learning and development summary is forwarded onto school in the form of a 'moving on' document.
If your child has an identified need that requires learning support Free Rangers speak about this to your child’s new school and complete a ‘kept in mind’ book which highlights what is needed for the child to enable them to learn. We talk about areas needing support and what works for your child. If children qualify for funding for learning support this is applied for in the December before the school year. Children needing support but do not have a targeted outcome plan may have notes added to the ‘moving on’ form where there is a section for parents to write their concerns. The majority of schools make nursery visits and some home visits giving you and your child the opportunity to meet with their teacher and teaching assistant. Free Rangers make school books which are accessible to children during free play with photographs of the schools and staff that have been allocated to the year group. School clothes and bags are incorporated into role play again for access during free play where children can engage in role play and act out their thoughts and ideas about school. This process is key to children 'understanding' what school means for them, what to expect and helps them to realise they have similarities to others who go to infant school in September.
Our top tips for school transition are;
- Talk with your child about school…but not too much.
- DO NOT put the pressure on by using phrases like, ‘you’re a big boy or girl now.’
- On journeys point out their new school.
- Talk in a matter of fact way, when we are older we go to infant school.
- Practise the ‘school run’ perhaps make a Sunday outing of it before the start of term comes. Notice landmarks along the way, make it an adventure, draw a map!
- Let your child wear their shoes,school clothes, uniform and PE kit. Let them handle their bag and drinks bottle before they start school. There is nothing worse than wearing stiff, itchy clothes on you first day of school as that is all your child will focus on and will not be able to learn. In fact how will children recognise their shoes and other belongings if they've been kept for best. We've all been there where we wear our new shoes out for a special occassion only to get a blister and spend the whole time concentrating on our feet rather than enjoying our day, it's the same for our children.
- Label your child’s clothing, use their name, initials or colour code the label with a ‘sharpie’! Let your child become familiar with their belongings.
- Practise getting ready for school so as you and your child know what to expect.
- Google the school together and talk about features you can recognise when school starts.
- Be aware of your child’s school transition procedure. Some schools have a staggered entry where your child may attend mornings only for the first week, then afternoons only the following week. If you need your child to attend full time you are within your rights to ask that your child attend full time. Nursery hours are written on children's 'moving on' forms but feel free to remind the school if you feel your child can cope with regular school sessions. If you are full time working parents you may need to consider child care options. Free Rangers may be able to offer limited spaces to term time only families or for the short fall that all year round families experience so speak with Daisy (admin) as soon as possible.
- Many schools hold open days, it will benefit you and your child if you attend, familiarising yourselves with staff, surroundings, routine and getting to know other children and parents attending the school. At Free Rangers we use a 'buddy' system where children going to the same school are encouraged to sit together at lunch and circle times. We are not forcing them to become friends but to be aware of the other children going to the same school. These details are added on the children's 'moving on' forms.
- If your child is not going to nursery during the school holidays before the start of term continue to keep a routine going that will assist the school routine when it starts. This could be a regular morning visit to the local library or early shop using a 'lotto' game style shopping list for your child to help you with.
- Keep a language rich environment, reading, making rhymes, singing, using the book start resources.
- If your child is showing an eagerness to write encourage your child to recognise the form of their name, let then trace or copy their name. Schools have different ways of writing, some may use 'script' writing where every letter starts at the bottom left, you may inadvertently teach the wrong way of forming letters for your school. Many children will reverse their letters, model the correct way but do not tell them they are wrong as they will have recognised the form. If reverse writing continues into year one then bring this to the attention of your child’s teacher as they may be physically continually forming the letters incorrectly or possibly have dyslexia. Essentially further investigation is required. Help your child to recognise their name and the form of their initial letter by tracing, printing, writing in sand, using bathtime crayons...make it fun and don't force it.
- A tip for your new routine, if you need something to happen do not offer the instruction as a request but state it as a fact. Remember if you don’t want the answer to be no don’t offer a choice. For example, if you need your child to get dressed phrase the instruction as, you need to get dressed as we are leaving to go to school. Not, can you get dressed? As the answer may be, No!
- Try not to project your anxiety on to your child. Remember reception teachers are aware how a new setting can affect children’s behaviour and confidence. If over time you feel that you would like to have a meeting with your child’s teacher then do request one.
Children often step back from where they were with their learning while they become familiar with their new surroundings and teachers. They need to learn what is expected of them academically, new boundaries and social expectations. When you collect your child remember they have been following instructions, listening, thinking, communicating and being physically and mentally active all day, do not bombard them with questions, your child will talk about their day when they are ready and probably when you least expect it. If you quiz your child they will become grumpy or stop talking altogether. After a week or two your child should hopefully have found a time when they feel ready to share their experiences with you. If not perhaps during bath time when your child feels more relaxed you can ask your child about their day in a very open ended way. Rather than quiz with 'what did you do today?' Ask, 'let me know something that made you laugh today?' Keep positive. Schools generally send children out of the school door when they see parents waiting to collect with little or no feedback. If you have a concern you need to vocalise this with your school. If you are not happy with the reply continue to voice your concerns and ask for steps to be put into place to support your child with the transition.