Ofsted calls for definition of school readiness

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Ofsted’s report on school readiness, published today alongside its Early Years Report, finds there is no clear consensus on what constitutes school readiness.

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‘Are you ready? Good practice in school readiness’ is a survey which aims to capture how the most successful early years providers ensure disadvantaged and vulnerable children are better prepared to start school.

The inspectorate visited children’s centres, childminders, pre-schools, and primary and infant schools delivering the EYFS, selected on the basis that they were providing good outcomes for children in deprived areas.

A major finding of the survey was that children do not make rapid enough progress because ‘far too many’ settings pass on unreliable assessments. Ofsted puts this down to there having been no nationally set baseline which defines school readiness.

Key findings of the survey included:

  • ŸVariations on whether the term school readiness refers to entry at Year 1 or entry to reception. Where providers had developed partnerships with schools there was a clearer, mutual understanding
  • Evidence of good practice in engaging families was seen mainly, but not exclusively, through children’s centres
  • Examples of good practice were found in disadvantaged areas where providers were increasing parental understanding of what was expected by school readiness
  • Significant numbers of children in the settings visited experienced delays in social and emotional development, physical development and communication
  • Half of all settings referenced specific programmes of support that had been effective
  • Staff who spoke clearly and promoted opportunities for language had a positive effect on children
  • ŸSchools were using the Pupil Premium funding to ensure the early identification and specialist support for children from their starting points, although there were variations in the speed and efficiency of achieving this
  • Quickly completing an accurate assessment of a child’s starting point baseline was common to all successful settings visited – and was particularly important in areas of deprivation

DEBATE ABOUT THE TERM

According to Ofsted’s survey, questions about the definition of school readiness sparked intense professional debate.

It says more commonly the responses derived from expectations set down in the prime areas of learning and development set out in the EYFS outcomes, with settings looking for children to leave/arrive at typical age-related bandings. However, the precise characteristics of school readiness varied between settings and often reflected individual pedagogical views.

The report features wide-ranging examples of good practice, highlighting how settings have successfully addressed all the areas of challenge.

It emphasises that defining school readiness is an essential factor in ensuring that children can be well prepared for starting school. Its findings highlight that where providers have developed close partnerships with local schools, and are working effectively with parents, school readiness is most likely to be achieved.