Defining school readiness

At least week’s GM Pathways to Talking Project Leads meeting we talked briefly about the issue of defining school readiness and what this means to different people or services we work with in GM. For some colleagues, it may seem that the services they provide are a long way off getting children (and families) ready for school and so its not something that they feel particularly engaged with.

For colleagues who have been part of the GM Early Years Delivery Model since its inception over 10 years ago, we have tried a number of times to agree a definition of school readiness and have done this with various sector representatives. We talked quite early on to Headteachers and colleagues from reception classes in schools about what school readiness meant to them and came up with a list of things that were felt to be important, and more recently the GM Nursery Headteachers have worked on developing a GM definition of school readiness (which for me has more of a focus on the voice of the child). One of the things that I think we are probably all agreed on through carrying out a review of the wealth of literature out there on school readiness is that there isn’t a single definition of school readiness and that perspectives on this be varied across the vast range of early years service users and providers. The United Nations Children’s Fund (2012) claims to have found over 150 definitions through Google Scholar searches and I expect that has increased significantly in the following 7 years.

I think one of the most helpful articulations is the School Readiness conceptual framework proposed by UNICEF which defines two characteristics on three dimensions.

See the link below for a full copy of the report

The characteristics defined are ‘transition’ and ‘gaining competencies’. In this context, transition is defined as: ‘children moving into and adjusting to new learning environments, families learning to work with a social cultural system (ie education) and schools making provision s for admitting new children into the system.’

The three dimensions of school readiness are defined in the UNICEF report (2012) as:

1. Ready children, focusing on children’s learning and development.

2. Ready Schools, focusing on the school environment along with practices that foster and support a smooth transition for children in the primary school and advance and promote the learning of all children.

3. Ready families, focusing on parental and caregiver attitudes and involvement in their children’s early learning and development and transition to school.

The report suggests that:

‘All three dimensions are important and must work in tandem, because school readiness is a time of transition that requires the interface between individuals, families and systems.’

It also recognises the importance of understanding of influences of culture and public policy and the strong influence these have on the three dimensions.

This is so reflective of the discussions at last week’s wider project group meeting and I think this UNICEF School Readiness conceptual framework effectively summarises the approach we are taking across to GM to work with children, families and multi-agency services working with children from pregnancy to five years, including the important role of early education settings and schools and the importance of understanding the relationship between these characteristics and dimensions.

The full report can be accessed here:

https://www.unicef.org/earlychildhood/files/Child2Child_ConceptualFramework_FINAL(1).pdf

Further interesting perspectives on school readiness are explored in the article below which was published recently by MMU with contributions from Deborah and Julie:

https://www2.mmu.ac.uk/metmagazine/story/index.php?id=10297