I’ve seen several posts recently about things to do to ready your children before they start reception – including writing, reading and counting. It all seems a bit too much like hard work to me! MG has finished her reception year and starts Y1 this September so with this huge amount of school experience, here is my advice:
Why rush their childhood? If they want to count, recognise letters and write their name then by all means don’t hold them back but don’t push an unwilling child. Reception year is still in the Early Years Foundation Stage, it’s not all about sitting at desks and passive learning; it’s still play based and interactive.
Having said that, later years aren’t all sitting at desks and passive learning either but I’ve yet to discover exactly how much that will be a part of KS1.
Here are the things that your (non additional/special needs) child really needs before starting school:
- All physical and verbal milestones as usually expected by age four.
- To be able to feed themselves with cutlery and drink from open cups.
- To be out of nappies in the daytime and be able to use a toilet alone, even if still needing help with handwashing.
- To be able to dress and undress themselves, even if still needing help with buttons and more difficult pieces of clothing. Try to choose clothing that makes this easier for them e.g. zip-fronted instead of button-fronted dresses; velcro shoes; slightly baggy polo shirts / sweatshirts with wide necks.
- To be able to part from their primary carer and interact with other children and adults.
If you’re not confident about your child’s ability to cope with going to school, remember you are not obliged to send them from the September after their fourth birthday. Legally, your child does not have to start full-time education until the long term after their fifth birthday. I’m using the phrase ‘long term’ because Oxfordshire schools follow a six term system.
- You have the right to delay your child’s start to the school you have been offered a place until this date.
- You have the right to not apply for a school place as long as you can fulfil an education suitable to your child’s age, aptitude and any special needs from the long term after their fifth birthday.
- An education does not require following the National Curriculum.
- An education does not require your child to read by age six.
- An education does not require your child to interact almost exclusively with children born within the September to August of when they were born.
- An education does not require worksheets.
- An education does not require exams.
- An education does not require one size fits all.
There are advantages and disadvantages to delaying your child’s school start.
Disadvantages include: they are not starting at the same time as their peers and may take longer to fit in; if you delay applying until later you may not get a place at your preferred school; if you delay start then they have less time in the Early Years Foundation Stage before starting Key Stage 1.
Advantages include: waiting until your child is emotionally ready for school; having more time to overcome minor developmental delays; having longer to enjoy holidays in term-time 😉
I chose to send both MG and DG to the local primary and for them both to start from the September after they turn four. I am happy with my decision and confident of my children’s ability. I also think it’s important to be aware of the options and your legal rights in respect to raising your own child.
In summary: enjoy the summer; take your child out in good weather and bad; play with friends; watch TV! Leave the worksheets for school 😉
Please note: the comments on legal rights apply to England and Wales. Other countries may have different rules. You should always check the current legal position. Home Education is currently legal under section 7 of the 1996 Education Act.