Is your child ready to start school? School readiness survey

May 12, 2022

Is starting school the next big step on your child’s horizon? Are they ready? A recent YouGov school readiness survey suggests half of reception children aren’t ready to make the transition. Read our take on school readiness for children and how to prepare for this new adventure…

Father and daughter wearing capes pointing at the sunset

School readiness statistics: YouGov survey

An online survey of 1000 primary school teachers conducted by YouGov and early years charity Kindred Squared in November and December 2021 identified that half of the students in their reception class were not ready to start school. 

A detailed report produced by Kindred Squared of school readiness statistics highlights that disruption to nursery schooling and lack of socialising during the pandemic were identified as the primary cause. Covid has undoubtedly had an impact on children’s social and emotional development. However, teachers do feel that parents also play a part in:


  • Not reading as frequently with young children
  • Spending more time on electronic devices than with their children
  • Being unaware of what being ‘school ready’ looks like


These also have an impact on a child’s level of development.

90% of teachers surveyed reported that at least one child within the class was not toilet trained. This is an area that causes great disruption for school teachers and for the young children involved. 


What is school readiness?

By ‘school ready’ we mean children being developmentally ready to learn; they are able to access the learning environments and opportunities available to them in the Reception year


Characteristics of school readiness

What does being school ready actually look like?

Your child should be able to:

  • Dress themselves
  • Be able to use the toilet consistently
  • Understand how to share
  • Know how to play with other children
  • Follow and act on simple instructions
  • Know their name
  • Communicate in small sentences
  • Count to 10
  • Hold a pencil
  • Sit and concentrate for 10-15 minutes


The importance of school readiness

Improving school readiness for young children is an area of focus for good reason. When children aren’t school ready it has an impact on both the child, their class and their teachers. 

Teachers and Teaching Assistants have to spend more time with those children who aren’t ready which can disrupt the early education of other children in the class. It can also mean that the child does not enjoy school, struggles to settle and fit in, and loses motivation early on for the school environment as a whole.


Factors affecting children’s readiness for school

The pandemic and the lockdowns have had a significant impact on child development and school readiness because they have reduced the time children spend with others. They have less time in nurseries or early years settings, they have been at home and seen other children less. Their parents may have been working from home with restricted time for childcare relying on digital distractions for entertainment.

However, there is a feeling amongst teachers that parental understanding of school readiness is decreasing and that some parents assume that school will take the lead in teaching basic skills such as using the toilet, getting dressed, being able to follow instructions and sharing with others.


Primary school readiness checklist

Use our handy checklist to find out your child’s level of school readiness.

Primary school readiness checklist




Found this handy? We have a wide selection of parenting resources for you to explore for every stage of your parenting journey.


How do I prepare my child for school? 

Making the big step into starting school is an exciting time for everyone and we want to make sure it’s something that you and your child really enjoy. We’ve put together some top tips for getting ready for school.


  • Independence – It’s a scary thought when they are so young but your child needs to be independent when it comes to feeding themselves, dressing themselves and using the toilet. If any of these are a struggle make them a top priority. 
  • Learning environments – When your child starts school they are entering a new type of environment – a learning environment. A great way to prepare them for this is to make a small area at home that is for learning. It might be somewhere to sit and read a book together. Perhaps they have a small chair and table to practise using pens and pencils.
  • Following instructions – If your child struggles to follow your direction at the moment you can start using some of the tools that reception teachers use throughout the country. For example, when you hear this sound it means it’s time for dinner.
  • Taking turns – Children at this age often play independently rather than with another child. You can help them by doing a simple jigsaw puzzle together encouraging them to take turns in putting in the pieces.
  • Build motor skills – colouring and painting are great ways of developing the fine motor skills that help children with using a pen and pencil at school. 
  • Focusing for 10 minutes – Your child will need to be able to focus on an activity for a short period of time. If they’re not used to doing this then 10 minutes can feel like a long time! Reading a story together where you are reading and they are sitting looking at the pictures and words is the best way of doing this.
  • Introducing numbers and letters – numbers and words are all around us. Pointing them out to children when you’re out and about is a great way to make them more familiar. How about looking out for letters and numbers when you’re on a walk? House numbers, road names and signs are all great talking points.   


School readiness activities

Being ready for school needn’t be a chore. Make learning new skills a game! 


  • If your child is struggling with feeding, dressing themselves or using the toilet, create a reward chart with some special stickers. Each time they complete an independent task successfully they earn a sticker on their chart. 


  • Make time for your child to use their learning space each day. Maybe you read a story there together or do some colouring. You might have jigsaw puzzles or board games in that space to play together.


  • Play games where children need to follow instructions. I love using the traffic light game at this age. When you say ‘red’ they stop, ‘yellow’ they walk and ‘green’ they run. You can change it up by introducing more colours and more activities they have to do. This type of play has positive benefits for your child’s physical development too.


  • If you have an opportunity to throw a little party, pass the parcel is a brilliant way of teaching children how to take turns. If you don’t have time to make a parcel just passing a cuddly toy around in a circle can have the same effect. Some children find it very tricky to let go of this exciting prize so it might require some patience. However, children start to see that everyone has a go and it’s exciting to wait for your turn to come next.


  • Get a couple of activity books to try out together. Look for early learning activities such as a beginners dot-to-dot book. Sticker books or colouring books are great for practising fine motor skills and concentration. Ideal for doing in your child’s learning space.


  • Make daily stories a habit. This has so many benefits. Not only are you extending your child’s vocabulary, but you’re also helping them learn to pronounce words, listen, make connections between letters, words and pictures and concentrate.


  • Visit your local library. This is a great way of introducing a different type of learning space whilst developing a love for books.


  • Find learning opportunities wherever you go. Whether you’re in the car or out in the shops there are so many things that can help our children learn about the world around them. Set them challenges of things to look out for when you’re out or even from their window at home. Can you spot 4 birds? Can you see a red car? Play I spy – if they’re not sure of their letters yet use sounds or colours e.g. I see something green.


Starting school should be an exciting time for the whole family. Take a look at our high quality early years resources for more ideas of what to do. If your child is showing all the signs of being school ready now then why not pop along to your local Explore Learning centre.

We are here to support children with their individual learning needs whilst helping them to build a love of learning to last a lifetime. 

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