So, your child is starting reception class soon and everywhere you look, the competitive parents are out in force.
Sebastian from nursery has been able to tie his shoelaces whilst reciting the alphabet since he was two and a half. You know this because Sebastian’s mother made you watch. Apparently he can also get himself fully dressed in less than 40 seconds. She knows because she’s timed it. You’ve never liked Sebastian’s mother much.
Arabella at Rhyme Time can already spell, and write her full name, and she knows that yoghurt has got a silent H in it. WTF?
Meanwhile, your child wet himself 3 times this morning and is currently perfecting the skill of running repeatedly into a wall with a bucket on his head. How is he going to compare to all these child geniuses in the classroom? And what will he be expected to do anyway?
Never fear! I used to be a Reception teacher and I’m here to tell you what will be expected of your child when they start school. Before we start, remember that we are talking about an average child here. If your child has additional needs, the school will take this into account and work with you. Teachers don’t expect all children to have the same starting point. This list should give you an idea of what to work on with your child before they start school, but is not a list of statutory requirements.
Schools will generally expect your child to be able to:
1. Get dressed and undressed independently.
One or two adults cannot get 30 children changed for PE. We expect to help with the odd tricky item such as a pair of tights (I feel like I need help with tights sometimes and I’m 40). Help your child by dressing them in clothing that is easy to manage (elasticated waists, Velcro fastenings etc).
2. Manage going to the toilet by themselves.
We expect occasional accidents in children of this age so don’t worry, but children need to be able to wipe their own bottoms, flush toilets and wash their hands unassisted. Every effort should be taken to get them out of nappies by school but if this has not been possible, talk to the teacher or school nurse re: school policy and support plans.
3. Feed themselves.
Practise using a knife and fork so your child doesn’t look feral during school dinners. Show them how to open packets etc if they are having packed lunches.
4. Focus their attention for at least 10 minutes.
You can practise this by reading a story and asking “what do you think…?” and “what might happen…?” questions about the book.
5. Recognise their name
Try writing a short list of names and helping your child to identify what makes their name special (the shape of the letters, whether it is long or short etc). Make sure you include some names that start with the same letter as your child’s
6. Write their name
Or at least a recognisable part of their name (e.g. if Charlie struggles with letter formation, he might manage to write c and i comfortably). This will help teachers to identify who artwork etc belongs to.
7. Recognise a few basic colours
Things are often colour coded in a Reception classroom, so it’s handy if the kids can recognise red, blue, yellow and green at least.
8. Count to 10
Reciting the numbers to 10 is helpful for basic numeracy and counting rhymes. Reliably counting 10 objects is more difficult and many children will not have mastered this by the time they start school, so don’t confuse the two.
9. Understand what rules are and why they are important
It would really help if you talked to your child about how rules keep us safe and happy and that everyone is expected to do as they are asked immediately.
10. Recognising letters is less important than you think
We teach children how to read and spell phonetically. This can be difficult if they have been taught the letter names first or if they have been taught phonics incorrectly. If in doubt, leave it to us. If you want to have a go, Alphablocks on CBeebies uses synthetic phonics, which is what will be taught in school.
What teachers want from you as a parent:
1. Your support
We want to work in partnership with you to educate and look after your child. We honestly want the best for them just as much as you do.
2. A bedtime story
Reading to your child is such a valuable activity. We’d love you to read them a bedtime story every night.
3. The understanding that while your child is unique and important to us, there are 29 other unique and important children that we are also responsible for.
We are doing our best for your child. We promise.
4. To be on time.
We are forever grateful to everyone who gets their kids to school on time every day.
No, we don’t care if you’re on the PTA. We don’t care if you forgot to bring in cakes for the bake sale. We don’t expect you to be the perfect parent, and we are not waiting for you to slip up. And yes, we’ve met Sebastian’s mother. We think she’s pretty insufferable too. Your child is going to be just fine.