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Preparing a Child to Start Reception

Photographer: Atikah Akhtar | Source: Unsplash

It’s a manic time for all early years educators at the moment. Friday 15th January 2021 was the official deadline for nursery children’s applications to “big school”, or as we formally know it: ‘Reception’. Although September 2021 may feel some time away, it’s a great to a begin thinking about how to prepare them for the big transition.

Why?

Your fellow early years staff will thank you for taking an interest in how best you can prepare Nursery children for the transition to Reception. As it is with any early years role, the expectations placed on a Reception teacher can be quite difficult; sometimes, Reception teachers have to quickly fill in the gaps of knowledge a child did not acquire at Nursery (or while out of school), then ensure each child learns all of the 40-60+ Early Learning Goals and masters them, then prepare each child for Year 1 which is much more formal.

That was a lot in one sentence, and it’s a lot to do in one year! If the first step is eliminated, this makes the learning journey less stressful for both the Reception teacher and the child.

Ways to Prepare a Child:

Emotionally

The transition from Nursery to Reception is a big one for children (and parents). It’s important to be mindful of how this change could affect children’s emotions. Below are some ways to prepare them.

  • During Circle Time, encourage children to discuss what they imagine the transition to be like.
  • Get them to feel excited about the transition but allow those that feel nervous to express that and why.
  • Please note: it is worth informing parents about the discussions that you are having at Nursery so that they can be followed up at home.
  • There are many books to help facilitate the conversation Going to School, Starting School, Max and Millie Start School, Harry and the Dinosaurs Go to School.
  • If you are working in a Nursery that is part of a primary school then take the children on an ‘exciting trip’ to the Reception classes. Point out similarities such as “spaces for pegs” or “the carpet” for Carpet Time, this will allow the children to see that it’s not so different.
  • If the child is moving to another primary school, especially if you have many students going to the same school, try to liaise with the new teacher to meet the children and for the children to receive a virtual tour of their new classroom via Zoom/Teams.
  • Consider the children that take a long time separating from their parents during the morning/afternoon drop-off, parents are not always allowed into the Reception class and it is unlikely that they will be able to stay to help settle the child.

Personally

  • Inform the children that Reception toilets are usually split up for ‘boys and girls’ as it differs from a typical Nursery setting.
  • Work hard with children that currently cannot go to the toilet independently and do not wash their hands too. Continue to encourage parents to discuss and show how to properly wipe themselves.
  • Continue to encourage children getting dressed independently too as, in Reception, children will have P.E. classes which requires a P.E. kit. Perhaps have a reward for each child that shows you that they can zip up their own jacket or do a button on their shirt or put on their own shoes.
  • Suggest to parents that children should begin dressing up independently, when appropriate.
  • Staff observing the dinner hall will have a lot of children to look after so practise using cutlery in preparation for School Dinners or Packed Lunches.

Academically

Small intervention groups can always be made even if this is for 5 minutes per day, indoors or outdoors, at the end of the day while waiting for late parents or during the busy morning drop off- every minute with the children can be used to academically prepare the children. These can focus on essential elements such as name recognition (important when children need to find their P.E. bags or art work!), name writing or tripod pencil grip.

The advantage that Nursery Teachers have is the staff:child ratio. In Reception, this ratio becomes 1:13. This means that it can be harder for the Reception staff to catch up on gaps in children’s knowledge. So, Nursery practitioners: deploy your support staff (including volunteers) appropriately and Support Staff: make the most of your time with the children!