One in three school starters need help to drink and eat independently

Children who aren't school-ready need extra support from teachers, which impacts others in the classroom. (Getty Images)
Children who aren't school-ready need extra support from teachers, which impacts others in the classroom. (Getty Images)

Parents need more guidance in the early stages of parenthood to help them understand what it means to get their children ‘school-ready’, a new report has suggested.

A survey of 1,000 teachers and 1,000 parents revealed that teachers are spending more time in the classroom supporting children who aren’t school-ready, with 50% saying the problem is worse compared to September 2022.

The research, carried out by education charity Kindred2, found that 29% of children starting reception, aged four and up, are unable to eat or drink on their own, as they cannot use cutlery or drink out of an open cup.

In addition, 24% are not toilet trained, 25% lack basic language skills like saying their own name, 37% cannot dress on their own, 38% struggle to share or play with other children, and 46% are unable to sit still.

The teachers surveyed also found that 28% of children incorrectly use books and swipe or tap at a book as though they are using an electronic device.

The impact of some children who need more support because of the lack of school-readiness has wider repercussions for the rest of the classroom, with 46% of teachers saying they have to allocate more time for dealing with personal care and hygiene issues.

A new survey has found that 29% of children starting school cannot eat or drink independently. (Getty Images)
A new survey has found that 29% of children starting school cannot eat or drink independently. (Getty Images)

But the report also highlights a disconnect between what teachers say being school-ready means and what parents think it means. 43% of parents hadn’t heard of the idea of school-readiness, with only 50% of parents thinking they are solely responsible for toilet-training their child.

The report outlines what teachers mean when they say children should be developmentally ready for reception. This includes:

Independence: Children should be sufficiently independent, able to use the toilet, dress and feed themselves, and cope with being away from their parents.

Playing, sharing and taking turns: Children should have social skills, such as playing, taking turns and sharing.

Basic written and verbal skills: Children should be able to communicate in short, full and clear sentences and verbalising needs, as well as be able to hold a pen, recognise letters and numbers, and have some familiarity with nursery rhymes.

Follow simple instructions: Children should be able to sit down and listen, follow and act on simple instructions.

Ability to concentrate: Children are expected to be able to sit down, focus and concentrate for short periods of time.

Watch: How To Deal With Toddler Temper Tantrums

How important is it for children to be school-ready?

Starting school is a huge milestone for children, and an important transition for the whole family. Therefore, ensuring children are ready for this new period of their lives is imperative.

“It’s not just about academics; it’s also about helping them integrate socially and emotionally into their new school environment,” Ryan Lockett, director of studies at tutoring company TLC LIVE, tells Yahoo UK.

“The transition to school can be daunting for both parents and children alike… By collaborating and tapping into guidance from online resources, parenting organisations and the school itself, parents can gain valuable insights and tools to help their children thrive academically and socially in their new school environment.”

What can parents do?

According to the survey by Kindred2, most (72%) of parents said they know what school readiness is, but less than half (43%) were aware of the full range of skills within school readiness before their child turned four.

Parents said they need more information on the definition and importance of school readiness, with clearer guidance and access to resources.

An Eurasian woman who is applying Montessori education techniques while homeschooling her preschool age daughter smiles encouragingly as the young girl colors with a crayon.
Parents need more guidance, earlier, about how to get their children school-ready and why it's important. (Getty Images)

To help parents understand what might be required of their children when they’re about to start reception, Jenny Shaw, academic lead at the UK’s leading childcare provider, Busy Bees, says the most important thing to focus on is building their independence.

“Many parents believe their child should be able to read and write before they start school, but that simply isn’t true,” she says.

“The most important thing to focus on is their independence. Things like being able to open a lunchbox and pour their own drinks will help them to feel confident so they can focus on enjoying learning.

“Using the toilet on their own is another key skill to develop before starting school – try to make sure your child is familiar with dressing and undressing themselves, flushing the toilet and washing their hands.”

In terms of what the school will expect from children in their first few days of reception, Shaw highlights that children should be able to recognise their own name, hold a pencil, and listen to and understand instructions.

“Finally, communication is key so your child can explain their needs to the people around them. Try asking open-ended questions, rather than those that require a ‘yes or no’ answer, to help develop your child’s language. This encourages children to become more engaged, think creatively and use a wider vocabulary.”

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