School Readiness

How will Diggers support my child to be ready for school?

This is a question we get asked at Diggers, and we’re sure it’s something you’ve asked yourself as September is fast approaching and your child is due to ‘fly the nest’ of Forest School life and join statutory education. But what does it actually mean for a child to be school ready?

  • Being able to read?
  • Being able to count to 10 – 20 or higher?
  • Being able to sit at a table, pen in hand and write their name?

“your child doesn’t need to be able to read, write or do sums before they start school. Children start school with a wide range of abilities and their teacher will be skilled at helping children progress at their own level. What’s more important is that you and your children have fun together – share stories, singing songs, playing games and talking about anything and everything.” – PACEY (Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years)

Learning numbers and letters are very important, however the skills they need for school include much more than these. It is much more important that every child leaves Diggers and starts their next adventure into school feeling secure, independent and have a curiosity and desire for learning about the world around them.

Supporting You and Your Child with School Readiness

At Diggers we recognise that starting school is an important milestone for both the child and the parents and we are here to support you every step of the way for when the big day arrives. We will make sure your child has all the skills they need as well as helping to prepare them for the environment of being in school. We will offer activities such as role play and dressing up, story books, discussions, photos. We’re here to support parents anytime you need to talk or ask questions with information and advice along the way when needed and above all we are here to help make the transition for both the child and parents as smooth as we possibly can.

Skills for School

Discussions between Diggers and reception teachers from local schools have always taken place. These are useful to find out what is required from them and what they see as the key skills they would like the children to have to assist them as being ‘school ready’.

  • Using the toilet independently, including wiping themselves effectively
  • Able to dress/undress independently
  • Able to put on/take off shoes & coat independently
  • Independence at meal times, using cutlery, washing hands
  • Able to tidy up
  • Able to recognise their own name
  • Able to follow a simple instruction i.e. please can you get me a pencil?
  • Be able to sit in a group quietly for a short period of time and listen
  • Core strength
  • Social skills and independence to be able to confidently tackle the school environment
  • Communication skills so they can express their own needs
  • Confidence to ask to use the toilet, say how they are feeling
  • Keeping themselves safe, assessing risk

How Diggers Support These Skills Every Day?

Children, with the help of their key person, are already being encouraged to be independent at Diggers in preparation for school every single day they attend.

  • All children are encouraged to use the toilet independently, both indoors and out and ask for help when needed. They are reminded (if needed) to wash their own hands. There is always an adult close by to check this is completed effectively.
  • Diggers children are often taking off coats, boots, jackets, hats, waterproofs, gloves etc (you know the kit list!) and then these items must be put back on again. The children are encouraged to do this with just a little help from an adult.
  • Children bring in a healthy packed lunch from home and are encouraged to chat with their peers about what each other have each day. Lunch time is a perfect social opportunity for chatter and friendship building. The children all wait for each other to be ready before starting their own lunch, when finished they are encouraged to pack away their things, including their rubbish and zip up bags up independently.
  • The children are encouraged to tidy up whatever they play with whether it is in the school or out in the forest. They know that no trace is to be left in the forest where they have played.
  • Our signing in system of finding their own picture/name card is assisting with helping the children to recognise their own name. We also look for letters and names wherever we are, for example the children often find letters from their own name within the signs they see that have been displayed around the farm and up in the forest as well as in books and displays in the school.
  • Who wouldn’t want to sit around a campfire to toast crusty bread, enjoy warm milk, listen to a favourite story and just snuggle up in a group to hear where the fairies might be hiding today?
  • Core strength – those muscles deep within are exercised and developed through movement and balance such as climbing, scrambling, pulling, pushing, running, and stretching. The muscles support not only the core but provide the foundations for building the shoulder muscles which in turn enables the strength to build in the arm then hand muscles. All of this is needed to enable children to be able to successfully be able to pick up a pencil and form letters on a page. The forest school experience offers this beautifully in a fun exciting way to children.
  • Diggers staff working closely with the children as key persons to give them the skills they need to develop their independence, communication skills and confidence to express their own needs
  • The children attending the forest school are taught how to keep themselves safe in many ways such as staying within the boundary mushrooms, stopping at the ‘stopping snails’ using ‘walking feet’ by the ponds and inside the school. They are also taking supported risks and making judgements for themselves such as climbing trees; questioning themselves ‘is this safe?’, carrying/playing with sticks but keeping them pointed to the ground around others, being in the ‘respect position’ around the campfire, climbing and sliding on the mud slopes but always staying within sight/sound of the adults at all times.

The Big Day

As well as preparing your children every day they are at Diggers in the months and sometimes years before they start school, we will be doing a little extra with our activities to help them prepare.

  • Role play, dressing up in school uniform which will encourage the children to practice their self-help skills of dressing and undressing as well as seeing a variety of school uniforms to try
  • We will gather information from the schools your children will be attending and create (if we can) photos of the school and maybe the teacher in booklets/cards for them to see and become familiar with.
  • There will be a home learning library which will include books all about going to school which you can read with your child at home to help them prepare (we will also be reading them at Diggers)
  • We invite local primary school teachers into Diggers to meet the children
  • Your child’s key person or Mrs B will give an in-depth handover to the school which will include details of their learning style and development stage within the Early Years Foundation Stage. This means your child’s teacher will be best able to support their learning from day one.
  • We will support your child and you with whatever is needed in their transition into ‘big’ school.

What Support Can You Give your Child?

The best way you can support your child with the transition to school is by chatting calmly and naturally with them about school. Explain that it is like Diggers and that having a teacher is similar to having a key person. Give your child reassurance that they can ask the teacher for help when needed.

  • Take your child to meet the new teacher and to see the new classroom
  • Work on the key skills at home such as listening, following simple instructions and sharing
  • Encourage your child to use the toilet independently including wiping themselves effectively
  • Encourage your child to get themselves dressed and undressed independently including coats and shoes. It would help to purchase school shoes that are easy to put on and shirts/blouses that don’t have buttons all the way down. Encourage the independence rather than putting obstacles in the way as this could end up being very frustrating for your child. Encourage your child to practice putting their uniform on and off including their new PE kit.
  • Have a ‘practice’ school run one morning so your child can see what their new routine will be like
  • While it’s not important for your child to be able to write their name, it is helpful to be able to recognise it. Point out letters when you are out and about, make a game of it by trying to find the letters in signposts and shop names or on car number plates as you go for a walk.
  • If your child is showing an interest in writing their name, please only use capital letters for the initial letter. The rest of their name should be written in lower case.
  • Practice pre-writing skills to build strength in children’s hands These could include playing with playdough, helping to bake, playing with tongs, tweezers, pegs, using scissors, helping with gardening activities, drawing with sticks in the mud, drawing with their finger in sand, matching socks doing the laundry, mud or foam play as well as large arm movements such as waving ribbons in the air.

We do hope this leaflet is helpful for you. Remember we are here to support in every way, moving on to big school is an exciting time and we are so pleased to be sharing it with you.