As we approach the end of another school year, many parents are faced with the decision of whether their child is ready for “big” school or not. Sending a child to Grade 1 when they are not ready is one of the biggest mistakes any parent can make. Even though they may be the right age, if they have not developed cognitively, socially, emotionally, physically and perceptually that child will never be able to handle the school situation.
The South African Institute for Distance Education (SAIDE) in their Grade R research report highlights the importance of the grade as a potential to play a bridging role into formal schooling. Although the Department of Basic Education had set a target for universal enrolment of South African children in Grade R by 2010, this has now shifted to 2014.
A recent study (2012) conducted by the Foundations of Literacy Programme at Gadra Education in Grahamstown tested the school readiness of Grade 1 learners at several local primary schools. These results provide a basis for the importance of investing in early childhood development (ECD), at least locally.
According to Gadra literacy co-ordinator Kelly Long, children's failure to improve in Grade 2 and 3 seems to be directly related to the difficulties experienced with lack of pre-reading and school readiness at the Grade R Level and even before that, in pre-Grade R (ECD).
Of the total 747 learners tested at the 10 primary schools around Grahamstown, only 41% of Grade 1 pupils were school ready. In Grade 2, 27% of the 571 children tested were not school ready and in Grade 3, 48% of the 475 tested were not school ready.
A significant result of this study was that where children completed a comprehensive Grade R and were all six turning seven years old, they were school ready, according to the tests. An average of 33% of learners in nine schools tested were five turning six in Grade 1, which means they did not attend Grade R and started Grade 1 immediately after attending a crèche or pre-school.
So what does it mean for a child to be school ready? Even though a child may perform well at primary school level, the actual negative effect may only be picked up at high school when they cannot cope with the workload.
School readiness is about the physical, psychological, social and emotional readiness of the child to be able to cope with school tasks. Even though school attendance is compulsory in the year in which a child turns seven, parents must not be forced into sending their child to school.
Chronological age is not a good enough indicator of school readiness as many children develop differently depending on the environments in which they grow up. If a child has not attended formal Grade R classes there are various tests available to test whether a child is school ready and can be done with an educational psychologist.
Each parent has a “gut feeling” about whether or not their child may be ready for school so if there are any uncertainties, have your child tested. If, however, you feel that your child will be able to cope it is enough to follow the advice of their Grade R teacher.
School readiness starts at home and it is the responsibility of the parent to prepare the child for school. By including activities that work on your child’s development in your daily routine, through playing with your child and through creating a stimulating environment, parents can help develop all the child’s senses.
Talking to the child frequently, playing games, singing songs, reading rhymes and discovering textures are all activities that can be done at home.
Signs that a child is not school ready:
– Cannot run, jump or stretch without bumping into things
– Struggles to kick, catch or throw a ball
– Cannot name their body parts
– Cannot identify left from right
– Unsure about position in space and direction (up, down, under)
– Bad planning, like putting shoes on before socks
– Weak balance
Fine motor development
– Weak eye-hand co-ordination
– Struggles to draw a house or a tree
– Does not want to be separated from their parents
– Cannot walk to their classroom without their parents
– Talks while the teacher talks
– Struggles to play with other children their own age
– Cannot control anti-social behaviour
– Does not accept classroom discipline
– Has difficulty understanding instructions and cannot remember them
– Has a limited vocabulary
– Finds it difficult to listen to rhymes and stories
– Struggles with learning telephone numbers
– Struggles to tell their own stories.
– Cannot distinguish between different shapes and sounds
– Struggles with visual memory
– Struggles with visual analysis and synthesis like building a puzzle
– Cannot arrange sort with sort
– Struggles with the concept of volume and numbers
These are just a few of the signs that parents can look out for before deciding whether their child is ready to go to “big school”.