Starting ‘Big School’

Starting ‘Big School’ can be an anxious time for families, sometimes more so for parents than children. As an experienced Head of Early Years & Infant class teacher, I have helped countless children across the years make the move from nursery to school. Yet when I left my youngest son on his first day in Year R, it was an emotional milestone for me and many tears were shed (by myself not my son).

Many parents ask me ‘How can I best prepare my child for school?’ Parents are often concerned that their son or daughter’s reading or writing is not up to scratch or that they don’t have a grasp of basic mathematics. However, any Year R teacher will tell you that the most important preparation for school is that children are as independent as possible, including that they:

  • can manage their own personal care (toileting, dressing, eating)
  • can separate from their main carer
  • have good listening and understanding skills
  • can follow routines and have some independence
  • communicate and interact with adults and their peers
  • are excited to learn, explore and embrace new experiences

There is plenty of time for more formal learning alongside play in Year R, and there is no expectation that children should start school being able to read and write. Particularly in this unprecedented time with many children being educated at home during self-isolation, the focus is going to be very much on developing the children’s social skills, emotional well-being and independence. The children are then ready to take on the exciting challenges, opportunities and new experiences ahead of them.

The EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage) curriculum starts from birth. This is taught in a nursery, pre-school or at a childminder setting and continues until the end of the Reception year at five years old.

The EYFS is organised into Three Prime Areas – Personal, Social and Emotional Development, Physical Development and Communication and Language and Four Specific Areas– Literacy, Mathematics, Understanding the World, Expressive Arts and Design. These seven areas of learning and development form the basis of education and provide the grounding for later work in Year 1 and Year 2, which is the conclusion of Key Stage One.

Research has shown that from birth to age five a child’s brain develops more rapidly than at any other time in life, specifically 90% of a child’s brain develops by the time they reach their fifth birthday. We must therefore ensure we do not lose any learning opportunities during this vital time.

The Early Years are when we foster a child’s love of learning for the many years of education to come, and indeed beyond. It is essential that we get it right from the outset and give every child the very best start to their school career. My firmly held belief as Head of Early Years at Meoncross School is that only in doing so can we fulfil our role as Early Years’ educators.

Mrs Chalmers


Coming soon from Mrs Chalmers – top tips for starting school.

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