Maternity Enquiries +44 (0)20 7390 6200

Children's Enquiries +44 (0)20 7390 8020

Gynaecology Enquiries +44 (0)20 7390 6200

The Portland hospital
The Portland hospital Posts // the latest « Blog Home
Getting Ready for School
Children, Lifestyle, Nurture Magazine

Getting Ready for School

Looking down at your sleeping newborn, it’s hard to believe that in a few short years they’ll be hurtling headfirst towards independence.

School is the first big step your child will take without you, and it can be an emotional and testing time for you both.
But there are ways to help make the transition smooth.

Many tasks you have helped with until now such as dressing, eating and using the bathroom will need to be carried out independently, or near enough.

So if there are any gaps in their skills, working on them in the months before school starts can be really beneficial.

With basic skills nailed, then comes the question of whether you need to prepare your child academically for school.

Does it help or is it even desirable if, on the first day of school, your child knows how to read, write and add up?

According to Joffy Conolly, headmaster at Soho Parish Primary school in Westminster, the best way to help your child is to encourage a love of learning rather than perfecting their reading and writing skills.

“It’s the attitude that counts, not the knowledge,” he says. “The children that really thrive are the ones that come into reception with a keen inquisitive mind and a desire to experience and try out new things.”

An ability to concentrate is important too.

“You notice that children who’ve just sat in front of a television at home aren’t good at concentrating - they are used to being spoon fed,” he says.

Breadth of experience will also prove invaluable.

Knowledge and understanding of the world is one of the first areas in which children are assessed - and it is the children who have had less involved parenting who struggle, he says.

The ultimate goal is to foster a passion for books

“They don’t have anything exciting to draw on,” Mr Conolly explains. “When they have to talk about themselves, they have nothing to say.

“Give your child as many different experiences as possible. Then, when they have to write about animals, they can talk about llamas and mynah birds, not just cats.”

But how much is too much? The ultimate no-no is to be too pushy, particularly with reading and writing.

“Forcing children to read and write too early can damage their development and set them back,” he warns. “You risk them becoming refusers.”

The key is getting your child to start reading or writing on their own.

“Expose them to books,” says Mr Conolly. “Read with them as often as you can. Provide them with paper and pencils - but don’t expect them to spend half an hour each day practicing their looping Js. The hope is that they will pick it up in their own time.”

Very bright children may start reading independently from the age of four. But parents should not fret if their little one isn’t.

According to Mr Conolly, the main mistake parents make is giving their children books that are too hard for them.

“Aim for a one in 20 rule, where no more than one word in 20 is unfamiliar or difficult - and remember, there’s a big difference between being able to read out loud and comprehension,” he says.

The ultimate goal is to foster a passion for books.

“Reading has to come from you. Read to them. Show them why it’s rewarding. Let them understand what treasures lie within - then they will want to discover it for themselves,” he says.

A final word of advice for enthusiastic parents:  “Never, ever compare your child to others,” he says. “That way lies anxiety.”

1. Bug Club Learn To Read At Home reader sets, from £25,

2. Oxford Reading Tree Read With Biff, Chip and Kipper, 25 books, ages 1-3, available from The Book People, £14 (RRP£125), 

3. Usborne Very First Reading, 15 books, £74.85, 

4. Stick Man Early Reader, by Julia Donaldson and Axel Sheffler, £4.99 

5. Learn To Read And Write, A Parent’s Guide, £4.99, Waterstones 

6. I can read! Batman Phonics Fun, £7.22,


By Deborah Arthurs

This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.

Please note we cannot respond to individual health questions and therefore it is up to you to contact a health professional if you are concerned about your health.

Your email address is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

About the Blog

Please click here to find out more about our blog.

Connect with us

Call image

Children's Health Enquiries
+44 (0)20 7390 8020

Children's Services

We offer a full breadth of children's services from day case ENT services to multi-specialist craniofacial and neurosurgery alongside complex medical cases.

Find out more
The Harley Street Clinic
The Lister Hospital
London Bridge Hospital
The Princess Grace Hospital
Wellington hospital
Harley Street at University College Hospital
Harley Street Queens
The Christie Clinic
Sarah Cannon Research UK
Blossoms Healthcare
Roodlane Medical
Galen Health Partners
52 Alderley Road
The London Gamma Knife Centre at St Bartholomew's

Make an Appointment

© 2007 - 2018 The Portland Hospital.

The Portland Hospital UK, dedicated to the healthcare of women and children.