On the road to school

“Is my child ready for school?”
We get asked this a lot and here at KTB, we think there’s more to it than if they can write their name, know their colours and count to 20.

The real question is not “are the children ready for school?” but “is our school ready for children?” Educators understand that their main task is to discover what turns each child on. Once we connect with that inner motivation, there is almost no limit to a child’s eagerness to learn. As Yeats said, “Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire.”

A second question that we get asked a lot is ‘what is the best school in the area?’ This is a really difficult question as we really can’t advise on the ‘best’ school. We can advise parents not to be too influenced by statistics – and a lot of our parents do get bogged down in these when choosing a school.

The decision used to be based on geography – you went to the local school with all the other children where you lived, and that was the main criteria.
Now, we have Ofsted reports to read, league tables to consider, peer influence and pressure – but none of these can tell us if your child will be happy at school, or if they are ready.

Schools are judged in league tables according to statutory government testing that start as early as 5 years old. But are these tests important? Do they tell us the whole story? How will they affect your child?

Finding a school that matches your family values is one way many parents narrow down the school choices – religion, wellbeing, languages, empathy, respect – there are many more but these are a few to consider.

If we put aside the testing and stats for a moment, we can look instead at how we can support our children to be as confident, independent and to have as many broad skills as possible from which they will thrive in any school.
This is our goal and our Ofsted report quotes: ‘children gain Outstanding skills for the next stage of their learning’.

The key word is ‘skills’ – and these are what we work towards, for them to be happy and successful at school.

What does my child need to be ready?

  • Resilience, self-esteem and self-regulation. School can pose a number of emotional challenges and frustrations and children need to have the skills to be able to manage these in a calm and rational way. A child needs to have confidence that even when things go wrong, they can work it out. They need to be aware of what causes them stress and when they are feeling stress and have techniques to manage this. Self-regulation will lay the foundations for school readiness.
  • Self-awareness, self-care skills and bladder control – so that they can look after their physical and emotional needs; children are required to be a lot more independent at school and need to be able to recognise when something isn’t right, what they might need to do about it and when to ask for help.
  • Good listening and communication skills, to help them process what they are being asked to do and communicate their needs effectively.
  • A strong physical core and spatial awareness so they can sit with a good posture and have the strength to hold their heads up to listen to the teacher; look at the board and stand in a long queue for lunch, balancing a tray and negotiating those busy corridors.
  • A healthy body and good physical skills, so that they can feel comfortable throughout the day, take part in activities such as PE with confidence and get themselves dressed and undressed as needed.
  • Social skills such as empathy, cooperation, respect and kindness will help children to see the world beyond themselves and understand that the experience of others is often different and that’s fine; helping others doesn’t take something away from them but will make them feel good.
  • The ability to be inquisitive, recognise risks, problem-solve, speak up and challenge what is not right – this will keep them safe.

For more information on how to support your child’s resilience, self-esteem and self-regulation, please see our emotion coaching guide.

The bigger picture
Children in the UK begin school in the September after their fourth birthday, whilst in Scandinavia, free play carries on until they are seven in Kindergartens, producing children who have very successful academic outcomes. Historically, children in the UK went to school earlier than our European neighbours to get the mothers back to work and contributing to the economy again – a decision which on the face of it seemed to leave out the most important question – was that the best thing for the children?

Perhaps Scandinavian schools are more ready for the children than ours in that sense, but we can only make changes to what we can influence.

Parents have shared with us that they feel judged by others over their school decision, and feel they have to be able to justify their choice to others. Many parents spend weeks or even months deliberating which is the best school for their child; which will give them the results they need to move through the education system to grammar, university or the course they need for their career.
Even after all of that, lack they confidence to trust their judgment alone on the best education for their child. It is really difficult to ‘imagine’ the best education, making it really hard to make a judgement.

The decision is complex but we advise to look at the wellbeing side the school offers, applying the same level of interest to this as you might the academic success according to testing and league tables.

We want fully-rounded children to emerge from their school life and be ready to face the world – but they can only do this with fully-rounded support.

We understand that our role as early years educators is to ensure that children are physically and emotionally ready for everything that school life brings.

If you can support your child to achieve for themselves and give them the skills to do so then they are equipped for success.

If you need any help or guidance, we are here to support you and your family.