School Readiness – What should one look for?

All the research emphasises social and emotional maturity. These things are interconnected of course, and are impacted upon by the child’s communication and language development. A key factor in children’s readiness for school is also the nature of the relationships they experience.

When children enter school, there are marked differences in cognitive and social skills amongst them. When one enters a Prep class, the range of abilities and levels is very marked. Having said this, children who are “at risk” find it very difficult to transition to school and to progress with ease, if they proceed unidentified and unsupported.

Language and communication are critical pre-requisites for school.

  • Children need to be able to follow instructions and understand what is said to them.
  • They need to be able to communicate their needs and to be understood.
  • They need to be able to deal with structured content and more formal learning environments.
  • They need to understand rules.

Many people feel that children need to enter school knowing their colours and numbers, and having some proficiency with reading and writing. Advanced development in this area is not necessary. However, critical building blocks to literacy need to be in place. These include:

  • Adequate speech development
  • Phonological awareness
  • Adequate use and understanding of language

Victoria has one of the earliest school entry ages, so it is vital that your child is ready. It is critical to consider school readiness well before the start of school.

Speech Development

Mispronouncing words, especially when this makes the child difficult to understand, can impact on literacy development. Why? When children start school they prepare to learn to read and write. There is lots of discussion about speech sounds and letters. That can get very confusing if the teacher is talking about ‘th’ and you are actually saying ‘f’ for example. Additionally, if a child’s speech is relatively unclear, they can experience considerable frustration.

Phonological awareness

Phonological awareness is broadly speaking ones auditory understanding of speech sounds. It involves being able to focus on rhythm and rhyme for example. A sub-skill of this is called phonemic awareness. Here the awareness goes beyond the broad patterns of speech, to being able to separate out the individual speech sounds (phonemes). These two things are not the same as phonics, but do underpin the learning of phonics…they are essential building blocks that need to be developed early. Children who have well, or adequately developed skills in this area will be able to read and spell more proficiently. We know that children who have poor phonological awareness may be at risk.


Immaturity in the understanding and use of language is a high risk factor as the child enters school. The classroom is a highly verbal environment, and these days, it is also a very rapid moving one, with technology like ipad use thrown in, so a child with poorly developed language is at risk for academic success.

If you have concerns about school readiness, or if you are concerned about the sufficiency of your child’s speech and language, it is best to seek timely advice. Young Advantage can help you.

Facts about school readiness:

  • Children with language difficulties are six times more likely to have literacy difficulties
  • Around 20% of four year olds have difficulty understanding and using language
  • Learning difficulties can result from speech and language delay impacting on literacy, numeracy and social interaction
  • Poor phonological awareness and mispronunciation of speech are strong indicators for being “at risk” for literacy difficulties
  • Early identification and intervention can remove the risk