A discussion on what school readiness means.

Hi everyone and welcome to June’s blog. Kate has handed over the reins to Zoe and myself (Totty) this month. She’s brave! Kate has asked us to share some nuggets of wisdom on school readiness and what this term really means to us here at Great Wood Farm.  We will also talk about the transition process and how our approach is unique to us. But before we get into that, a little bit about us. I (Totty) am the Early Years Teacher here at Great Wood Farm and although I am based in the Kindergarten Badgers room, I work closely alongside both Hares and Foxes. I’ve worked at Great Wood for nearly 9 years now and with both my mum and sister working here too, its like a second home to me. Sat next to me as we write this together is Zoe. Zoe has two roles here at Great Wood Farm, she is not only the deputy manager but also the room leader of Kindergarten Badgers. She has many years of experience working in child care and has been with us at Great Wood for nearly 3 years. Between us we have we have worked with this age group and completed this transition process many times. However, this is a first time for both us, writing a blog, and we’ve realised that we are both definitely more verbal communicators, so bare with us whilst we attempt a hopefully interesting, light-hearted yet informative blog. 

So where do we start… Actually, this transition process started long before it even crossed our minds, let’s take you back to September! Something that is promoted across the whole nursery is creating an independent child, and many teachers rank this highly in their “school readiness requirements”. Right from when the children arrive  at the start of the day they are encouraged to hang up their coat and any other items on their peg and alright, ok… this often translates to dump your coat in the middle of the cloakroom floor, but over the year this is something that the children are slowly but surely getting the hang of. The promotion of independence continues throughout the day with some other examples including self-registration and independent toileting, but arguably our planning in the moment approach lends itself beautifully to creating an independent child. Through fostering this approach, the children are able to free flow and make their own choices about where and how they want to play. This continues throughout the whole year and we are lucky enough to get to watch their independence and confidence grow all year round.

Resilience! For a child to be able to flourish in a new environment they need to be able to adapt to new routines and changes in social situations. Here at Great Wood, this is something that runs through our every day life. Risk taking, or as we like to call it risk benefit play, allows children to take calculated risks and learn through trial and error. Forest school and exploring our woodland areas, lends itself massively to building a child’s resilience and can-do attitude. Our well-trained staff know when to step back, when to support and when to praise the process and celebrate a child’s achievements. Through this approach our children learn to look a problem in the eye and not let it weigh them down.  With resilience and independence in their tool kit, a child will fly in any new environment. Something we both feel strongly about is that a child doesn’t need to be ready for school but in fact ready for life!

As we sit and write this, we can hear all your voices asking, but what about maths? what about phonics? Don’t panic that’s coming right up. Of course, both of these areas of learning are very important but in order to achieve a child needs to be willing and ready, and that’s where those previous life skills come in. See it’s all just a big circle, Happy child – Invaluable skills – Eagerness to learn – and so it starts again Happy Child… and then so on. Our environments both inside and outside are enriched with opportunities for both maths and literacy. These moments of learning take place in the moment, following the child’s lead and interest. For example, I was in the garden last week when some children came and asked me if they could play a game of football. I said of course and encouraged them to find a ball, whilst they were doing this I found a clipboard, paper and pen. When they returned, I took the opportunity to explain to them about a tally mark and introduced some purposeful mark making and mathematics into their play. Each time they scored a goal they came and added on a tally, great fun was had and the whole time the children didn’t even clock that they had been doing maths.  See it’s that simple, seize all the opportunities around you and your child will always be learning! Back in February, Kate wrote the first nursery blog all about the topic of phonics, for some more ideas and inspiration give it a look over. 

So now we’ve covered how we support our children all year round, let’s get down to the nitty gritty of the final term… Although there is a greater focus, most of which is prompted by the children finding out about which school they will be attending, we still ensure we approach this topic sensitively. The key to encouraging children to be excited and positive about this transition to school is to remove any pressure that they may be feeling. However, it is important that we don’t underestimate how huge this transition is, so it does need bringing up and discussing, albeit in a fun and child relatable way. A real highlight of this current year’s cohort in both Hares and Badgers is the dressing up in the home corner. There is not a day (or even an hour) that goes by without a child or five being dressed up in some school uniform. They love looking at the rail, picking out a jumper, a dress or a tie, putting it on and showing off their new look to their peers. Sometimes we even catch them having a cheeky look in the mirror. This is all part of the preparation process; they are familiarising themselves with the idea of wearing a uniform and going to school. Of course, this isn’t the only way we promote the idea of school. At this time of year both rooms gain a new member of the class, his name is Lois. Lois is a puppet that comes to talk about school and his different feelings and thoughts towards it. A lot of reception classes in Lincolnshire then have a bigger version of Lois that starts school with all of the children. He joins us at group times and will often bring in various books or props as a starting point for discussion. We work closely with all teachers to ensure that the transition to school process is as smooth as possible. This includes us inviting them in to meet the children and learn about their individual needs and interest. In the final half term the child’s key person will write a transition report which will be shared with not only the parents but also the child’s new school teacher.

As we have already mentioned this transition process is a big deal to the children, but it is not just the children who may feel an abundance of feelings about it. We are fully aware that this is also a big step for parents and we pride ourselves in our strong parent partnerships. We aim to ensure that we do everything in our power to ease the apprehension and that our parents know we are only ever a phone call away.

You’ll be glad to know you’ve reached the end of our ramblings, or the Totty and Zoe show. On a serious note we do hope you have found this useful and if you are reading this as a ‘soon to be parent of a school child’ you feel reassured that you are doing everything right to ensure your child is school, no LIFE ready!