Here Theresa Johnson, Professional Development Manager at PACEY, highlights the vital role that early years professionals play in preparing children for school…

Every September, thoughts turn to the start of a new school term and shoe shops and school outfitters are packed with parents in a last minute panic. Starting school is a big step for a small person and research that we carried out at PACEY a couple of years ago showed that almost three quarters (71%) of parents were anxious about their child starting school for the first time.

Often it can be the parent that worries more than the child, after all, anxiety is a completely normal response to transition in both parents and children. But early years professionals are there to work collaboratively with parents to manage this important transition and help children become school ready. Reassuringly over 70% of parents believed that their childcare or early education provider played a significant role in preparing their child for school. While a fifth (21%) thought they played a "very significant" role.

The term "school ready" can itself put the fear into any parent, but in the early years when we say a child is ready for school, we don’t necessarily mean that they are able to read, write or count – more so that a child is confident, curious and ready to learn. 

Childcare professionals play a vital role in supporting children and their families to prepare for this next developmental stage and a joined-up approach can be of great benefit to settings, schools and families.

In the run up to starting school, early years professionals will be focused on building a child’s confidence and familiarising them with routines so they know what to expect when they start in reception, by encouraging them to: Childminders can help children to get school-ready

  • Be independent in their own self-care routine
  • Explore new environments, and provide the freedom to learn
  • Interact with other children so they are able to share and take turns
  • Sit still and listen for short periods of time
  • Ask for help if they need it
  • Enjoy books
  • Tidy up, following instructions and understanding rules
  • Hold a pencil and start mark-making
  • Use a knife and fork

Early years settings are also often able to mirror school routines and meal times so the structure of the school day doesn’t come as a shock for children facing that transition. But childcare professionals don’t just work in a silo, the focus is on collaboration.

A while ago PACEY carried out a DfE funded project called ‘Starting School Together’. The aim was to strengthen the partnerships between parents, childcare professionals and teachers to help ensure children make a positive start to school, and help alleviate the anxiety felt by parents. By establishing open lines of communication in the run up to school and solid three-way partnerships - the children involved in these projects in Cambridgeshire and North Yorkshire were found to be more confident and settled. In fact there was an increase in children’s wellbeing and engagement, as well as in self-confidence and independence. This project highlighted that partnership working is key and a child that has been supported by parents; the school and an early years provider is likely to have a smooth transition into the classroom.

It is worth remembering that every child is unique and while many children settle into school life easily, others take longer. PACEY has a raft of information available to help parents and practitioners prepare a child for starting school including activities, factsheets and guides.

For more information, visit www.pacey.org.uk/schoolready

• Childminders who want more guidance on how to raise the aspirations, access and achievement of all children in the early years should not miss the Childminder Professional Development Programme, developed by leading education charity Achievement for All, with experts at PACEY. To find out more about the programme, please visit: https://pacey.afa3as.org.uk/
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Childminders can help children to get school-ready
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