Author spotlight: School readiness

Friday, May 13, 2022

Using a snippet from her book ‘School Readiness and the Characteristics of Effective Learning: The Essential Guide for Early Years Practitioners’ Tamsin Grimmer explores the phrase ‘school readiness’ in the post covid world.

School readiness has yet again hit the headlines with Ofsted's report, which was published in April, showing the pandemic has continued to affect children in all three prime areas of the Early Years Foundation Stage. There have been more referrals for external speech and language therapy than pre-covid and waiting times for specialist support have increased. In addition, the report also highlighted the negative impact on children's personal, social and emotional development with many children lacking social confidence, being less independent and having fewer self-help skills, with some children also finding separation from main carers difficult. Many providers have also noted delays in babies' physical development when compared with pre-pandemic.

Despite being regularly talked about, there is no nationally accepted definition of what ‘school readiness’ means. In my book School Readiness and the Characteristics of Effective Learning I explore what is meant when this phrase is used. For a child; school readiness could mean being emotionally mature enough to leave their parent for the whole day. For a reception class teacher; it may mean a child can take themselves to the toilet unaided, change for PE with little support and be ready to participate in class activities. For a parent; school readiness could mean that their child will make friends. For a nursery practitioner; it could mean encouraging children to gain more independence or play cooperatively.

According to PACEY (2013), 97 per cent of childcare professionals agree that the term should be defined as children who have strong social skills, can cope emotionally with being separated from their parents, are relatively independent in their own personal care and have a curiosity about the world and a desire to learn. Interestingly, very few teachers or practitioners believe that a definition should include having a basic understanding of reading, writing and arithmetic. Perhaps this is because basic literacy and numeracy skills can easily be learned when the child is ready, but what is more important during times of transition is for children to feel safe, secure, loved and confident. They need to enjoy school and cope with this transition.

I believe that rather than thinking about getting children ready for school, we should be fostering the dispositions and attitudes that will stand them in good stead for future learning whilst also looking at enabling schools to be ready to receive their new cohort of children. Focusing on the Characteristics of Effective Teaching and Learning encourages children to have a ‘can do’ attitude and develop resilience, which help them to become good learners.

Here are some ways that settings/schools can improve continuity with local schools and support their children:

  • Settings/schools build relationships with each other and discuss how to effectively transfer information.
  • Older children or previous parents could return to settings and talk to children and their families about starting school.
  • Setting/school could participate in joint ventures, e.g. teddy bears picnic, sports day.
  • Offer information sessions for parents on topics such as ‘encouraging children to be independent’.
  • Provide some school uniform in the role play area.
  • Settings encourage children to be independent at toileting and putting on coats, or practice changing into shorts and T-shirts for mini PE sessions.
  • Include photo books about the local schools in setting book area.
  • Create transition packs, like story sacks, with lovely stories about starting school.
  • Encourage children to talk about going to school - listen to their worries, share their excitement, and try and focus on the similarities that school has with the setting.

Whether or not children are ready for school, it will loom on the horizon at some point in the child's life. Children are not being prepared for school but for life; we are laying the foundations for lifelong learning, so let's get it right.

Reflection points

  • What do you consider to be school readiness?
  • How do you support your children to meet your expectations?
  • Have you spoken to the child's reception teacher to understand their expectations?


Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY) (2013) What does ‘school ready’ really mean?
Retrieved from

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