School Readiness

What is School Readiness?

A lot of focus is given on children being ready to start formal education, at the age of 4 1/2 – 5+ when starting Primary 1.

So what does ‘school readiness’ mean? To parents, the direct translation is something along the lines of ‘is my child ready to start school’. In general, it is about the building of skills, physical, verbal, social and emotional to a level where the child can pay attention to teacher and interact with classmates in ways conducive to a teaching environment. It also means that the child will be able to remain happy and well whilst apart from key caregivers and adapt to an environment alien to natural development, including eating in school dining rooms, changing shoes and being able to dress/undress for gym independently.

The pedagogical approach used in early childhood education curriculums such as those used in nursery or pre-school settings will have an impact on how ‘ready’ a child is by a particular age. Below is an outline of what could be deemed logical ‘school readiness’ in real terms.

School readiness:

✔ Between the ages of four and five, children should be prepared to be separated from their parent or main carer.

✔ Children should be able to clearly demonstrate their ability to listen and follow age appropriate instructions

✔ Children should show an interest in a variety of subjects, paying attention to the subject or activity they are taking part in

✔ Children should have enough of a range of vocabulary and language to express their needs, feelings, thoughts or ideas

✔ Children should be able to identify themselves by name, age, state factors in their life, name family members etc…

✔ To be able to interact in an age appropriate way with another child or adult

✔ Children should be able to interact, share and play, taking responsibility for their actions, understanding repercussions for their actions

✔ Focus on and also show interest in the work they are undertaking

✔ To be able to observe, notice, discuss and ask questions about their environment and experiences

✔ To be able to engage with books, have some understanding of words and language

✔ Respond to boundary setting

✔ Vocalise their needs such as toileting, thirst, hunger illness etc…



There is also the desire for each child to have developed early mark making and literacy skills, be able to attend to toileting independently and adapt to school routines regarding when to eat, drink, play, toilet, talk and be quiet, use scissors and cope with bells ringing loudly etc.


As a parent, you would hope that your child has all of these abilities. In reality, for many children the above list is a work in progress. There are obvious issues such the need for being toilet ready and no longer needing naps during the day and there is support available to address all of these issues in time for school. On the other hand, schools will also work with parents, enabling a coordinated response to needs as they arise, supporting children and their families as they work on issues that can hamper school readiness.

Parents who feel they have a child who is behind or struggling to meet some of the ‘school readiness’ markers should contact their health visitor or GP, who are well placed to provide the early intervention required to support parents and children through the transition from toddlerhood, pre-school years and on into later childhood.

Looking further ahead:

It is important to consider each child as an individual. Their social, emotional and behavioural needs also need to be considered. Some children may have developmental delays in these areas and again, this can be supported through early intervention programmes and packages of support to address the issues.

You can also consider your child’s physical development. Do they have age appropriate fine motor skills and the ability to care for themselves in dressing, toileting and eating and drinking. This then goes further into activities such as ball kicking, riding a trike, scooter or using other interactive toys.

As a parent, you can encourage good communication through modelling language, explaining things, questioning, showing, encouraging and providing interactive play and engagement throughout the day.

For children who attend an approved playgroup, nursery, pre-school or childminder setting, there is ample opportunity for children to learn, grow and thrive. These settings can also provide the ideal environment for identifying any potential issues that may take longer to resolve or may require professional input in order for a child to become ‘school ready’.

It could be argued that it is not only down to the child to be ‘school ready’ but it is also the responsibility of the parents and school setting to be ready to support the child through their transition from home or other childcare setting, into the school environment which is far more structured than any other form of prior childcare.

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