School leaders service The Key have released their annual State of Education report, estimating that at least 194,000 pupils could be starting school in September without achieving expected levels of school-readiness.
In a survey of more than 2,000 school leaders and governors across the country, lack of social skills (79%), delayed speech (78%) and deficient self-help skills/resilience (69%) are cited as the most common reasons for children being ill-prepared for entering school. While a staggering 98% of those questioned say that a proportion of pupils join their school below the level of school-readiness they expect, the problem is significantly worse at the primary phase. There, 31% of the 1,188 primary school leaders surveyed say that more than half of pupils are not ready. Over 50% of the primary school leaders surveyed also said that under-prepared pupils were arriving with reading (58%), writing (56%) and numerical levels (55%) below the standard they would expect.
Self-help skills such as resilience and personal hygiene are also singled out as being below expected levels in the report. One school leader said: “Why, in the 21st century, are children still arriving in school nurseries aged three or above without being toilet-trained?”
Fergal Roche, The Key Chief Executive, suggested: “To lessen this load more should to be done to ensure children are arriving at school with the skills they need to learn.” He added that a definition of what ‘school-readiness’ means could be the first step to helping parents. One head agreed: “Perhaps we should be providing more support for prospective parents and helping them understand what we hope to see when children join school.”
This is where School-Home Support (SHS) comes in.
Parents are not actually told what is expected of them as children transition from home or nursery to primary school. This is a problem which we noticed some time ago and in response, launched an innovative programme, ‘Ready for School’. We know that early intervention and parental engagement are both key, and so ‘Ready for School’ supports both children and parents during this transition. By intervening early to ensure that families are ready for school, children are much more likely to do well, both socially and academically.
The programme is delivered via three workshops with parents, with the final workshop being delivered for parents and children. The underlying purpose of these workshops is to empower parents to achieve a positive experience for them and their child during the transition phase. Parents will be equipped with up to date knowledge, tools and strategies to enable them to effectively ensure that they and their child is ‘ready for school’. How else are parents supposed to know that ensuring a child is sufficiently toilet-trained or can tie their own shoelaces, for example, is as important as numeracy at that earliest stage? The programme also supports parents to understand how to apply for free school meals so that their child can benefit from the extra Pupil Premium funding. The programme itself makes excellent use of the Early Years Pupil Premium and the Pupil Premium.
‘Ready for School’ has a proven track record at improving the levels discussed in The Key’s report. Before attending the workshops, 85% of parents said they had a low or mid level of knowledge and confidence with regards to being prepared for their children to start at school. After attending the programme, 100% of parents said they had a mid or high level of knowledge or confidence.
Jan Tallis, SHS Chief Executive, said, “Whether it’s social skills, literacy levels, resilience or even personal hygiene – all of these things are improved when parents are told what is expected of them and their children come September, and when they are given the support necessary to achieve this. ‘Ready for School’ is the most efficient way to improved standards of school-readiness.”
Nalini Scibramaniam, Parent Governor at Oliver Thomas Nursery School and Children’s Centre, agreed: “‘Ready for School’ – this should be mandatory for all parents.”
Read the full report here.