Kate Gingles is an expert in the education of young children. She has worked in Early Years education for over 19 years, and after working as an Early Years Advisor in County Durham, joined the NHSG Junior School leadership team in September 2021 as EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage) Phase Leader. She has shared her top ‘getting ready for Reception’ tips with us.
It’s an exciting time knowing that your child is soon to start school.
However, as an early years teacher for 19 years and as a parent of two young children myself, I know that excitement can also be coupled with a touch of worry… are they ready? Can they do enough? Have I done enough? Am I ready?!
The reality is, your children are going to surprise and delight you over the next year. All the wonderful things that they have already done in their Nursery setting and all the experiences that you have given them at home in their first four or five years have will pave the way for a great start to Reception, and a lifetime of educational success.
These pre-school months couldn’t be more important and I hope you enjoy reading my top tips for a great start to Reception class.
Talk to your child about starting school. Once you have made your school choice, show them where the school is. Not once but lots of times! Try to walk past at different times of the day so you can see other children arriving at school or out on the yard. Practise the journey, choose, label and try on the uniform together. Read picture books and watch CBeebies shows about starting school so they can imagine what it might be like.
At Newcastle School for Girls we invite new girls for a taster session before they start Reception. If your chosen school offers this opportunity, make sure you take advantage of it. Remember, you know what school is all about, but they don’t yet, and they might have all kinds of weird and wonderful misconceptions.
The more familiar your child is with their new school, the more relaxed they will be.
- Be excited
Even if you have mixed feelings about this new stage, make it exciting and positive for your child. Your child will mirror your emotions on that first day of school and you want them to feel good.
Of course, it’s natural for you to miss them and for them to miss you, so talk about this. Reassure them that you will be back to collect them at the end of the day and remind them how much fun they are going to have. Even if your child has been at Nursery or pre-school for a long time, school can feel very different, so don’t be alarmed if they find the initial transition difficult. They are leaving not only you, but also the setting where they have been so comfortable all this time, so it is a big change.
I promise you, even if that first moment of separation at the classroom door is difficult, the vast majority of children are absolutely fine within minutes of being in the classroom.
Reception staff know exactly what to do to help children feel relaxed and settled, so trust them and your child will do the same.”
- Stand back
Being a parent is hard work. There is never enough time in the day and you will probably find yourself doing things for your child just to speed things along a bit. However, if you can stand back and let your child put on their own coat or shoes, wash their hands, open their snack or tidy their own toys away (with some guidance and instruction of course!) it will really help them to develop their confidence and independence.
Your child’s teacher will be seeking to grow and develop these skills in the Reception year, so give them a head start and let them feel like a confident and competent learner from the outset. In addition, encourage them to ask for help if they need it. Let your child know that they should tell the teacher if they are not sure about something, if they need to go to the toilet or if they don’t feel well.
Try to find opportunities for them to speak clearly to other adults so that they get used to doing this.
The Reception year is the final year of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), which, if your child has been in any kind of pre-school setting they are already part of.
A key feature of this is learning through play, and the teachers and teaching assistants in the Reception class will be highly skilled in providing play-based learning opportunities for your child.
Don’t feel that you need to sit your child down and work through written workbooks, or practise letter formation before they join Reception. These skills will come in time.
Instead, focus on skills such as taking turns, explaining ideas and making decisions as these will all be essential in the classroom environment.
As Albert Einstein said, “Play is the highest form of research”. Play develops social skills, problem solving and thinking skills and important characteristics such as resilience and flexibility.
Allow your child the opportunity to play, explore and develop their own ideas and interests so that they are confident to express themselves freely in the classroom and get the most from the activities on offer.”
I don’t mean teach them to read, that’s the Reception teacher’s job and believe me, she or he will do it with great skill and enthusiasm from day one of the Reception year! Read them stories, every day and every night. Just one bedtime story a day equates to nearly 1500 stories by the time your child is four years old! As well as all those opportunities to develop listening and concentration, just think of all the words, sentence structures and ideas that they will have come across. It really is the greatest gift you can give them.
At Newcastle School for Girls we don’t expect our new starters to know all (or any) of their letter sounds before they join us as we will be teaching these through our own systematic phonics scheme from the first week of Reception in September. However, many girls do have some prior knowledge of these, particularly the letters in their name. Knowing just the shape of the first letter of their name can be very useful when they need to find their peg, bag or book in the classroom!
Alongside reading, playing games such as I spy or singing songs and rhymes together are highly beneficial as these activities develop vital phonological awareness skills that underpin learning to read.
In our Reception classes at Newcastle High School for Girls we find that pupils join us with some excellent maths skills, particularly in relation to numeral recognition and reciting the counting sequence to ten, twenty and often beyond! This is wonderful and gives the girls confidence in maths lessons. However early maths is about so much more than this!
Subitising is the skill whereby children recognise small quantities of objects without counting them (in the way we recognise dot patterns on a dice instantly) and it is strongly linked with success in maths.
Practise this skill with your child by playing dice games and dominoes and most importantly encourage them to notice groups of objects when you are out and about. For example, you might spot a group of two conkers within a larger collection, three parts to a clover leaf or one person walking two dogs. Extend this learning by grouping and sharing real life objects.
Children will demonstrate a lot of natural ability in maths when they arrange buttons on a playdough cake or share out four biscuits between themselves or a friend for example.
Take every opportunity to tell your child’s teacher about your child. If there are things you are worried or concerned about speak up and if you’re not sure about something, ask! Your child’s teacher will want to get to know them, and you, as well as possible so help them to do that.
At Newcastle School for Girls we use an online learning journal called Tapestry and it’s wonderful when parents post photographs and comments about things that the girls have been doing at home, as this helps us to understand the world from their point of view.
If your chosen school has one of these systems, make full use of it! A key principle of the EYFS is that every child is unique, help your child’s school to understand what makes them special.
A key principle of the EYFS is that every child is unique, help your child’s school to understand what makes them special.
Download our brochure here.