Transitioning from nursery: school-ready or ready schools? By Hayley Smith
31st August 2017
The move from nursery to ‘big school’ is an exciting but anxious time for young children and their families, particularly for the parents/carers who generally feel a heavy weight of responsibility in choosing the right school for their child. Parents can feel a lot of pressure to make the right choice and, alongside nursery practitioners, often work hard in the pre-school year to prepare their child(ren) for primary school.
But is the notion of ‘school-readiness’ rational?
Is it realistic to expect every four-year-old child to meet the expectations of an educational establishment?
Or should schools take some responsibility in adapting their environment to make it accessible and appropriate?
My own personal view is that an effective transition will be a combination of both; we know the benefits of partnership working! Whilst I believe that young children should be nurtured to have an appropriate level of self-esteem and positive emotional well-being to equip them to deal with transition, I also believe that each school setting such have a good knowledge of the children who will be joining them. Having such knowledge should enable the school to appropriately prepare for the new children joining their setting, in turn providing an appropriate environment in which the children can continue to learn and develop.
Perhaps the more testing transition is when a child moves from reception into year one, leaving behind the notions of ‘unique child’ and ‘enabling environments’ expressed in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). My feeling is that the expectations change when a child moves into Key Stage education, which appears to be more prescriptive and more adult led than the EYFS. A supportive setting, which actively differentiates teaching and learning, should be able to support all children with this with little difficulty.
The needs of each and every child are very different and are unique from each other. With this in mind, it is important for parents to visit a range of schools and choose a ‘best-fit’ for their child’s needs. Parents know their children best and, therefore, working in partnership with parents is hugely important especially whilst teachers are getting to know the children. I also believe that there is a lot to be learnt from children’s nursery teachers who will have a wealth of knowledge about their academic ability and potential, but also about their individual personalities.
The way in which the transition from nursery to school is approached is different for every family, often depending on the receiving school and the existing nursery. The most important thing, however, is that the experience is positive for the child. Whilst it is important to support the family as a whole, where possible, it is vital that this early transition is a positive experience for the child and everyone involved should strive for this to be the case through informed decision making when choosing a school and ongoing partnership working.