School readiness seems to be a buzz word for many parents during this time of the year, and with it comes many hopes, fears, excitement and disappointment.
Many schools have started testing potential learners for grades 0 and 1 and for many parents this has been a stressful time.
What does school readiness really mean and why should it be done?
In order for a child between the ages of five and seven to enter a school environment it is important that the school, the parents and most importantly the child are prepared for this next phase, set to last at least 12 years. A child that is ready for this process must have met some specific developmental milestones. While we might think “my child can sing the ABC’s so she/he is ready for school”. However, when it comes to school readiness, academic ability is not the most important skill. The generally accepted definition, is a readiness in totality for a child to enter into a formal school environment. A child is considered ready for school when they have developed the necessary skills for functioning in this formal setting.
So what is assessed during a school readiness test. The most basic areas are:
Thinking/Cognitive skills – these generally relate to language and literacy skills, as well as general knowledge.
Physical skills- As parents we have heard a lot about gross and fine motor skills. This group of physical skills are the large body skills which enable jumping, running and throwing. Fine motor movement has to do with smaller muscle groups such as fingers, wrists, feet and toes. Think of holding a pencil or cutting with scissors.
Emotional skills- this forms part of the child’s ability to want to learn. Independence and detachment from parents also form part of this group of skills.
Social skills-These skills deal with how well a child responds in a social setting and the behaviour during social interactions with people not from their community (family and friend) group.
Normative skills, includes behaviours such as persistence, ability to pay attention, following an instruction and self-regulation.
All these skills and perhaps more are taken into consideration when assessing for school readiness.
Yay or Nay
The most dreaded conversation for any parent is hearing that their child is not ready to enter into the school or next phase. Most often this is due to either the emotional, social or normative skills being underdeveloped. This is also most often seen as a “bad” thing. It is not, it is just to give the child the opportunity to refine these skills. As adults, we know that some things are a little tougher to master or take a little effort and time. We then spend this time and effort to master a skill. So imagine a four to six year-old. They need the adults in their lives to be able to make this decision for them, as they cannot do it for themselves. If I can urge you, please never push your child into a grade at this age if she or he is not ready and if a therapist does highlight certain areas then, take the advice, do the work I promise you your child will thank you one day. We all develop at different times and an extra year now is better than a troublesome 12 years of school.
In closing, school readiness can be of great value for us if we allow it to be. It is not meant to keep certain children out of school. The main aim is to assess the level of development of any child in order to treat that child accordingly.