School Readiness – A Definition and How Early Years Key Workers Can Help

February 6, 2019 12:00 am
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‘School readiness’ is a term often used to describe how ready children are socially, physically, and intellectually, to start formal schooling.

However, there are many terms and arguments about what being school ready really means for a child.

We have researched these arguments and put together a short article in an attempt to link all of the arguments and provide easy to understand and concise information about what school readiness really is.

In this article we are going to talk about:

  1. The definition of school readiness and how early years practitioners can help
  2. Different family circumstances and how practitioners can help


  1. What does school readiness mean?

There are many ways to define school readiness which can lead to some confusion. Is it more important for a child about to start school to hold a pencil and write their name, or are speaking and listening skills at the top of the list?

The definition of children’s readiness for school has undergone major shifts during the past four decades. It has changed from a primarily maturational definition to a more socially constructed concept. However, some systems still use a narrow ‘pre-primary’ educational approach that stresses literacy and numeracy skills that would align with a primary school curriculum.

The revised EYFS framework says school readiness ‘gives children a broad range of knowledge and skills that provide the right foundation for good future progress through school and life’.

In other words, school readiness is a product of the interaction between the child and the range of environmental and cultural experiences that maximise the development outcomes for children.

UNICEF’s description of school readiness states that three elements together increase children’s likelihood of success. We will use these elements to structure this article. These elements are:

  • Children’s readiness for school affects their learning and development. This is related to things such as communication skills, personal, social and emotional and physical development.
  • Early years settings and schools’ readiness for children ensures learning environments are child-friendly and adapt to the diverse needs of young learners and their families. This is related to how early years professionals create learning environments that support children’s further development when they enter school.
  • Families’ readiness for school promotes a positive and supportive approach to education, their children’s learning and the transition from home to school.

It is believed that these three aspects will maximise each child’s likelihood of success as they progress through their time in school.

Research carried out by Ofsted (April 2014) supports UNICEF’s definition.

All of these elements above are important and must work together as school readiness requires an interface between individuals such as early years practitioners, families and the system.

Here we’ll look at each of these elements, in turn, to see how they can be used in a practical setting to help children get ready for school.

Click next to read about Children’s Readiness for school … 

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