As we all begin to prepare for our last term before many of our children begin their transition to school, it is once again time to reflect upon our transition processes, what ‘school-readiness’ means to us, and what it should look like in practice for these children about to embark upon a huge transitional process and how we can best support them.
Our post-pandemic practice and critical reflections should have taught us how resilient and adaptable our children are and how quickly they can bounce back from change and difficult circumstances.
However, we must not lose sight of the huge transitional period of trauma many of our children experience as a result of the pandemic and the various lockdowns, and it’s important to consider what we have learned from these experiences, both as adults and as practitioners supporting and facilitating these transitions.
From a ‘school-readiness’ perspective; what does this really mean to us? And what should it look like for our children?
If the pandemic has taught us anything it is surely the value of children’s emotional well-being over everything else and this is especially important to be championed in preparation for school.
Over recent years, there has been significant emphasis placed upon children being academically ready to start school and more questions being asked about whether children can write their names, dress themselves and their overall approach to learning.
But since the pandemic, children’s emotional well-being and social skills have become starkly more important for our sector and we are subsequently more knowledgeable and well-equipped to recognise and support children from an emotional point of view, especially during periods of stress, trauma and transition.
As we prepare these children and their families for the next stage on their journey, we must ensure that we are not placing undue emphasis on children’s academic skills in preparation for September, but instead valuing the importance of confidence, relationships and emotional intelligence over everything.
We are more knowledgeable as a sector now to recognise that children’s academic learning and development prior to these transitions pales into insignificance if children are not emotionally ready to learn.
It is our duty to prepare children for these transitions in a way that is meaningful and supportive for them as individuals; focusing more on their ability to express their needs, ask for help, form friendships and play co-operatively.
Can children identify and attempt to put on their own shoes and coat? Can they play independently without support?
These are all much more important stages of development than ensuring and placing undue pressure and focus on children’s ability to read, write and count prior to their transition.
Essentially, if children are not emotionally prepared or support for such a big transition and change in their routine, then they will not be in a position to learn nor focus until they are emotionally confident and equipped to cope and process their transition and new environment.
It is our responsibility to ensure that we are cascading the important and emphasis on emotional wellbeing and confidence to all people involved in the transition process including the children’s parents and the child’s receiving school and key adults.
Children will learn and develop at their own pace, but only when they feel happy, confident and adequately supported within trusted relationships and so if we are not prioritising these first interactions, relationships and confidence boosting exercises, then children will take considerably longer to transition effectively into their new setting and subsequently their learning and development in their reception year will be impacted.
A happy and content child will be keen to earn and seek challenge in their play, and so let’s make it our mission this summer term to emotionally support and prepare our children for their transition to school rather than focusing on the academics and we will see first-hand the difference shifting our approach to transitions and focusing on wellbeing and emotions has on not only the children’s overall happiness and excitement in preparation for their transition as well as how confident they are in approaching this new challenge.