As we’re getting closer to the end of the school year, and primary school places have been allocated, parents start to worry about their child being ready for school.
Starting school is polarising. Many believe that the Scandinavian way is best, letting them learn by play and real life before starting school at 7 years old. Other countries have different methods of intake at different ages. In some countries, children only go to school for part days at first (presumably a killer for working parents).
In the UK, there’s only one intake a year, in September, for children who will be 5 years old in that school year. Nowadays more parents are deciding that their summer born children should stay back a year and start their reception year when they’ve turned 5, with them being the oldest in the school year rather than the youngest.
School isn’t all bad. Most children are ready for it, including most summer born children. I know chlidren and adults who are summer birthday born, and they’ve never struggled at school, or have gone on to get great degrees and qualifications.
However old the child, starting school can be unsettling. I’ve written before posts on how to prepare your children for school, and get yourself prepared. Because it is a big step for the family, in particular if a child has been at home with one parent for the last 4 years of their life.
But this is my big thing. I believe nursery school is one of the best ways to prepare children for school. And I don’t feel guilty that N went to day nursery before that. Some parents worry so much about their children starting school but they’ve never eased them into school life by not sending them to nursery school. I can’t understand why parents wouldn’t (unless of course they’re planning to home school, but even then I’d argue that nursery school is a great part of childhood experiences). And it seems the government agree (although they don’t get much right about education these days) with the (shambolic) 30 free hours of nursery for 3 and 4 year olds.
I’m sure some parents will shoot me down. Arguments against putting children in nursery school (or pre-school in modern day speak) include
‘If you’re a parent, you shouldn’t farm them off for other people to look after them’
‘My child isn’t ready’
They can learn everything at home’
‘They have plenty of socialising with other children anyway’
Nursery as school preparation
For us nursery was essential. I’d have gone spare stuck at home day in day out with a child, and no money to do fun things that we wanted to do.
Ok I’m biased because N was in nearly full time childcare from 12 months old due to me going back to work. He was lucky in that he had 3 days in a day nursery and 2 days with my sister in law for a year, then we mixed it up changing the 2 days to being at the local nursery school. It worked really well, he had the best of both worlds, and not once did we have issues when he moved to something new, or to a new room. Everything was built up to, they managed changeovers by trying to keep the same key workers, and he loved both the nurseries he went to.
When he started school he settled easily. His school don’t do half days, new children start at the same time as the rest of the school. They ease them into eating in the school hall at the same time as the rest, and have older children who’re buddies.
Many people say their children get really tired on starting school, but N wasn’t. He was used to doing more hours than school. Because he’d been at 2 local nurseries, he knew around half of the new intake. He was used to being around lots of children, and while it was a bit mad in their intake with an initial 17:3 boys to girls ratio, it was an easy start to his school life. I don’t doubt that being in nursery school regularly had a big impact on this.
Settling into school
Maybe there are lots of children who’ve never been to nursery school who thrive at school and settle really quickly, but there’s a lot who don’t. Yes, much of this will be about personality, the school not being right for the child, or the schools not having a settling in programme. But why not give the child the best chance of being used to going to school ahead of time?
Even if children don’t need to have childcare because a parent is at home with them, nursery school is a great pathway to starting school. They don’t have to do 5 full days to benefit, but 1 morning a week isn’t really going to cut it that well. All morning or all afternoon sessions aren’t going to be as good as a few full day sessions to replicate a school day where they’re out for lunch as well.
The benefits outweigh the downsides. Especially for the child.
1, Children learn about routine and times of the day to do things. This is really useful for school
2, Children learn how to sort out their own lunch and cope without their parents
3, They’re used to taking themselves off to the toilet without relying on a parent to help
4, They’re less likely to have parental back up for getting changed for PE
5, They’re used to a chaos of lots of children playing all over the place
6, They’ve probably experienced some kind of ‘lesson’ in phonics (even if like N they’ve taken no notice), or at least recognised that there are formal times to sit down and concentrate, rather than always getting to choose when
7, They’ve already learnt to be independent and probably got over any upset previously.
8, They’re used to being in a ‘classroom’ setting with ‘teachers’
9, The main carer gets their time to work and be themselves and they get to be used to not having the child with them all the time.
10, They get to socialise with totally different people to who they would meet through their parents
11, They may meet friends who’ll end up going to the same school.
If I was a stay at home mum, I’d still have sent N to nursery school when he hit age 3. This was what I did when I was a child (my mum wasn’t working when we were young children). Early on he might only have gone one day, but by the time it was end of the summer term, I’d have tried to ensure he was going 4 days. Yes cost comes into it at that stage once they’re over 30 hours, but I’m sure he learnt more at nursery school than he would have done with me at home.
When I say learning, I don’t mean knowing the academic side – I’m of the view that children shouldn’t be forced to learn before they’re at school (N totally ignored the 2 years of phonics he’d ‘learnt’ at nursery because he just wanted to play, and also spent most of reception year playing outdoors). But the being developmentally ready, socially and mentally, nursery really helped with putting him way ahead of where he would been without it.
How do you feel about not sending children to nursery school? How did your children settle into school?