School Readiness or Not

Recently Elsternwick Primary in partnership with Bayside Council hosted a talk by Kathy Walker on school readiness. This annual event is always  popular with over 50 people present.

Kathy Walker is a noted early years educator who works in schools and kindergardens. My intent in writing this posting is not to summarise Kathy’s presentation but rather make a few reflection on the issue s that Kathy raised. These are the same issues I’m asked on school tours.

School is not Kinder.

School is a lot more formal with bells and many routines children are expected to just master day 1. There are many ways of working [by yourself on a writing task, learning to read in a group with 3-5 other students, and in other groups on investigations] and while we prepare students for these activities they all require a certain level of social competence, organisation and resilience.

In other words its not alright to hide under a table when the teacher calls your name or throw down your work or bang your fist on the table when you don’t get your turn right away, or refuse to follow the teachers direction and come in from play, or take someones play lunch because it looks nice or you couldn’t find your own, or ask the teacher to blow you nose with a tissue, or continually call out and not let others have a chance to think and share.

Each year we get a child or children who struggles with these expectations and we wonder how did this child slip through our transition program and why didn’t we notice these behaviours or why wasn’t an earlier assessment made on school readiness for the family. We are working on a readiness checklist for our prep teachers in 2011.  

Kathy did challenge parents about a clash of values between home and school or other economic factors that might be in play with this decision to start school ‘early’ [when I say early I’m referring to the stage of development here not age related earliness].

Some parents indicate when these signs of readiness are not evident that just want their child to repeat year prep again the following year.

The research on the advantages of repeating a class are little if any at all. Often these children’s stage of development is such that they need another year of play based learning not formal learning and to repeat a year of formal learning doesn’t match their needs – just their frustrations.

Lets aim for every school day for the full 13 years to be an enjoyable one starting with a stage of readiness to start prep.

For further information:

school readiness information by Kathy Walker

What’s the fuss about school readiness article by Kathy Walker