Parents will be encouraged to put morning and bedtime routines into place and to play with their children as part of a new government-funded project to get young children “school ready.
Charity Home Start has been given £800,000 over two years to lead the school readiness initiative – called Big Hopes, Big Futures – in nine areas of the country. It will operate through a network of trained volunteers who will work with parents.
More details of what the government means by “school readiness” for children entering Reception class at age 4 were revealed at the Commons Education Select Committee last month when Elizabeth Young, director of research, evaluation and policy at Home Start, told MPs that, although literacy and numeracy are very important, school readiness was also about basic, practical issues.
“It will be very much around being in a position for the family to engage with an educational institution: morning routines, bedtime routines, reading routines, finances for all the additional costs of going to school and having the confidence to engage with an educational organisation,” she said.
Children in the families who are working with Home Start volunteers will be expected to arrive at school fed and on time; be able to recognise their name written down (or in the case of nursery children to recognise their name when it is spoken); be able to play with other children in a way that is appropriate for their age; have age-appropriate toilet training and hygiene; be able to dress and put on their shoes; and cope away from their parents.
A spokeswoman for Home Start said that there is evidence that in one Home Start area involved in the scheme 70 per cent of the children arriving in Reception class are “not ready”.
The Association of Teachers and Lecturers raised concerns last year about an increase in the number of children in Reception classes wetting themselves because they are still not properly toilet-trained.
One teacher told the union at the time: “This is a major problem for us – over 45 per cent of our nursery children are not toilet trained when coming into nursery when they are three years old. We also have children who soil and wet a great deal even in Reception. Our parents just have no idea when and how to toilet-train their children. We are having to put on a workshop to support them.”
And education secretary Michael Gove has talked about children arriving in Reception “totally unprepared to learn”, many unable to use a knife and fork or sit and listen.
The project will run in Sheffield, Liverpool, North and South Manchester, Bolton, South Suffolk, Mid Suffolk, Nottingham and Charnwood (Loughborough and the surrounding area).