When I put together a proposal for Jessica Kingsley Publishers about this book – I debated long and hard about the title! Using the contested term school readiness might put many people off reading the book, simply because that horrible phrase is used in the title. I’m not sure if I would have picked it up. However, it is this emotional response that spurred me on to write this book in the first place and also to use the term. I want to spark a debate and claim the phrase school readiness in an appropriate way for young children.
I explore the fact that there is no nationally recognised definition of school readiness and there is even confusion about the phase of education that it refers to. For many people, school readiness is about a child starting school for the first time, usually entering a Reception class, while for other people, school readiness is about moving out of the Early Years Foundation Stage and into Year One.
School readiness could also involve a number of different skills and abilities. A reception class teacher may feel that school readiness is about a child being able to go to the toilet independently or change for PE, while for a parent it could mean that their child is emotionally mature enough to separate from them for a whole day. Policy makers may assume that school readiness is about academic ability on entering school and a nursery practitioner might believe it to include social skills and self-regulation. Within this confusion, it is vital that early childhood educators consider how they define school readiness and own this phrase, because not having clarity could leave the door open for a top-down approach where we are told what it means, perhaps in terms that we do not agree with.
I believe that we should be looking at school readiness in a holistic way which is firmly centred around the child. As part of my research for this book, I worked with a group of teachers and early years practitioners and we developed the following model of school readiness. We placed the child at the centre and around them are three main areas of influence: school, setting and home. Each of these areas has key issues that relate to school readiness and support the child. Encompassing all of these areas are environmental factors which can affect the child in a broader context. This is, in our opinion, a comprehensive view of school readiness and is hopefully a helpful model for use when supporting children transitioning to school. Continue reading