Editor’s view - Talking about transitions

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Listening to children’s perspectives on what they need to settle into school should change views on what ‘school-ready’ means

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Liz Roberts

It’s the time of the year when thoughts turn to transitions – most particularly those of young children facing the prospect of moving from a nursery or childminder to school come September.

I think many of us get a slight feeling of dread when we hear the phrase ‘school ready’, as it has become a mantra chanted by government to justify what seems like a constant push away from the needs of young children and the best early years practice.

Even the retort that ‘schools should be ready for children, not the other way round’ has started to sound empty in the absence of meaningful action.

So in this issue of Nursery World, we’re taking a different approach to the subject of starting school, with an in-depth focus written by four academics behind the ‘Children’s Thoughts about School Study’.

This aimed to find out what was important for a good start in school by asking the children themselves, using a range of age-appropriate activities.

And although children were conscious of the need to develop core academic skills and good self-regulation, they had other, quite complex priorities to do with concerns about going to the toilet, making friends, navigating the playground, and having encouraging teachers, strong family-school involvement and supportive community networks. There is much to think about here when we talk of ‘school-readiness’.

Our parent’s guide to starting school should also prove a useful aid to give to families in the run-up.

An extra factor on the horizon that is causing many teachers and parents concern is, of course, the Reception Baseline, which will be undertaken by young children in their first weeks of school (see our news story on the data kept back from the trials).

The perspectives of the children in this study should surely weigh against the imposition of Baseline.

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