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What makes a child school-ready?

Early learning

Starting school is a significant milestone for young children, but unfortunately one in five are doing so with a developmental vulnerability.

This means they are behind their peers in one or more critical childhood developmental areas, and the evidence shows that children who start behind tend to stay behind.

It’s why there is so much emphasis placed on school-readiness by teachers in preschools and kindergartens.

But what is school-readiness, and how is it achieved?

School-readiness is a holistic view of the child

Determining whether a child is school-ready is not as simple as assessing a single skill set, like being able to write their name or count to ten. Rather, it’s a holistic view of the child and their development in areas like:

  • physical health and wellbeing
  • social competence
  • emotional maturity
  • language and cognitive skills
  • communication skills and general knowledge

These are the areas against which the Australian Early Development Census measures children in their first year of school. The results of each census provide insights as to how many children are ‘on track’, ‘at risk’, or ‘developmentally vulnerable’ in each area.

Our preschool and kindergarten programs are geared towards helping children develop the foundational skills they need for a smooth transition to school. You can read about the six key elements of our curriculum here.

The program is delivered through play-based learning which makes it active and fun. This helps children develop an openness to learning that lasts well into adult life.

Social and emotional skills are so important

While all areas of the preschool and kindergarten curriculum are important for school-readiness, social and emotional competencies are arguably the most important of all.

“It’s my firm belief that if a child is emotionally intelligent and can self-regulate they will more easily pick up the other skills they need for school,” said Tom Brien, teacher at Goodstart Mona Vale.

“We focus on all areas of the curriculum and many of the traditional skills needed for school, but if the social emotional block is missing in their developmental pyramid, the rest of the skills really can come crashing down.”

Kristen Phillipson, teacher at Goodstart Oxenford Riversdale Road, agrees that social and emotional skills are the key in unlocking the development other skills needed for school.

“I incorporate a lot of group learning into our program, where children have the opportunity to share and gain deeper understanding through interactions with their peers and educators,” Kristen said.

“These interactions support children to be more effective communicators and learn to express their ideas, feelings and emotions in socially acceptable ways which are important social-emotional skills for school and later in life.”

Building school-ready routines and behaviours

The school environment is quite different to that of early learning settings, so building routines and establishing behavioural expectations can really help smooth the transition for young children.

“Within the ebb and flow of the preschool day we have times that are a lot like a traditional school day,” said Tom.

“We have ‘news time’ which is similar to the traditional show and tell where the children will build their confidence and skill in communicating with others.

“We also have a weekly literacy exploration with a letter and word of the week to expose children to early literacy experiences in a slightly more formal way.

“We will also start to embed a little more focussed indoor and outdoor time, in amongst the flow of the rest of the day. It’s a soft introduction to the things they can expect at school.”

The independence that comes with starting ‘big school’ is also introduced in the kindergarten or preschool year, as Kristen explains.

“We encourage children to start to look after their own belongings, identify appropriate foods to eat, use self-help skills like toileting and dressing, and attempting tasks - both new and practiced - with confidence.

“All of these skills and competencies take time to develop and are progressively taught by educators and teachers from the very youngest children in our centres and upwards.”


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