What Is School Readiness and What Does it Mean for EYFS? (free checklist included!)


Children learning in a classroom

If you’ve spent any time preparing to send your child to school, then it’s highly likely that you’ve come across the term ‘school readiness’ before.

It’s a term that is so often met with confusion from parents and practitioners due to how many meanings it has.

Some take the term literally, thinking of it as a sort of checklist for what a child needs to attend school (i.e. a lunch box). But what it’s really in reference to is how simple the transition is from going from one stage of their lives to the next.

School is an important part of your child’s life, only not every child will be equipped to handle the shift, which is where the term school readiness comes into play.

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You see, school readiness is about measuring how prepared a child is to succeed in school in more ways than one. Think of it as a guide – one that highlights just how ready your child is for school, and what parents/practitioners can do to prepare them for life at school.

This will become more clear as you read on. In this post we are going to be covering school readiness in full, which includes ‘readiness meaning’ (a popular search term online).

Let’s jump right into it.

What Is School Readiness?

To begin, let’s answer that ‘readiness meaning’ question that we just mentioned. School readiness refers to how simple the transition is for children heading to school, and how adjusted they are socially, physically, and intellectually beforehand.

As mentioned, there are multiple versions of this definition based on what country you live in and who you ask. But the definition we’ve presented is what the early years foundation stage (EYFS) identifies the term as.

“The broad range of knowledge and skills that provide the right foundation for good future progress through school and life.”
Statutory Framework for the EYFS, 2014

Do keep in mind that school readiness is as much about what parents, carers, and practitioners can do to help children as much as it is about what children can do.

After all, they can’t develop the characteristics of school readiness all on their own (more on the characteristics of school readiness later). For example, if a child struggles to concentrate, then steps can be taken to ensure this child is helped before they attend school.

What Age Does School Readiness Refer to?

Again, the question of what age does school readiness refer to goes back to what we were saying about the various interpretations of the term itself. However, the EYFS definition is quite clear in which age group it refers to.

School readiness refers to children around the age of 5 who are about to start formal education, otherwise known as primary school in the UK. Some will refer to this stage as kindergarten, for reference.

Books, an apple, and building blocks on a desk

What Are the Characteristics of School Readiness?

School readiness can be broken down into multiple characteristics. Each characteristic plays into the social, physical, and intellectual elements we mentioned before. Understanding where a child is at in terms of these characteristics will determine how ‘school ready’ they are, so to speak.

Here are the various characteristics of school readiness:

  • Self-Regulation
  • Sensory Processing
  • Receptive Language (Understanding)
  • Expressive Language (Talking)
  • Articulation
  • Executive Functioning
  • Emotional Development/Regulation
  • Social Skills
  • Planning/Sequencing

Do keep in mind that some of these characteristics can be difficult for children to achieve, which isn’t a bad thing. The important thing is that parents, carers, practitioners, or whomever, are aware of them and can then put steps in place to provide the right level of assistance.

It’s important that any areas where a child might struggle are covered, hence why we have put together a checklist (which you can find later in the post).


This relates to the ability to obtain, maintain, and change emotion, behaviour, attention and activity levels in line with a certain task or situation. In other words, how a child can adapt to various situations, be it playing outside or learning inside the classroom.

Sensory Processing

Sensory processing is a form of stimulation that occurs in various environments, as well as in one’s own body that influences attention and learning. This would affect things like how a child might sit, hold a pencil, and listen to others.

Receptive Language (Understanding)

This is a simple one to grasp. Essentially, receptive language refers to how children understand language that is passed to them. They need to be able to understand questions that are posed to them in order to respond accordingly.

Expressive Language (Talking)

Expressive language links with receptive language. As we’ve just mentioned, your child will need to be able to communicate with others for them to function and get the most out of their education. In other words, it’s an essential part of school readiness.


Articulation is quite similar to the previous two characteristics of school readiness. It refers to how a child pronounces individual sounds in words.

Executive Functioning

Executive functioning relates to a higher order of reasoning and thinking skills. For example, a child that demonstrates executive functioning will have a pretty good idea of what they need to pack to take to school (i.e completed homework).

Emotional Development/Regulation

Like self-regulation, emotional development is all about how a child perceives and responds to their emotions. Children go through a wave of emotions at a young age, so it’s important for them to understand why they’re feeling this way and how to process it in line with school.

Social Skills

A child’s ability to engage in reciprocal interactions with others either verbally or non-verbally. School is a very social environment, meaning children will need to be prepared to speak with teachers, fellow children, and others without worry.


When it comes to school readiness, planning and sequencing are key. After all, how a child performs a multi-step task, or activity performance, will determine how effective they are at developing integral skills. Skills that will help them later in life.

child in play area smiling

How to Tell a Child Has Problems With School Readiness

There are various things to look out for when assessing how school ready a child is. Some are a lot easier to spot than others.

For example, the body language of a child will tell you immediately how they’re feeling. Slumped shoulders and their head pointing to the floor is usually a red flag that they are feeling anxious.

You can tell a child has problems with school readiness when:

  • They get easily frustrated
  • Struggle to follow instructions
  • Rely on parents to get dressed
  • Can’t go to the toilet on their own
  • Struggle to remain focused
  • Are socially immature (i.e. unable to share)
  • Have poor receptive skills (i.e. can’t articulate)
  • Don’t understand consequences for actions
  • Are irritable when asked to do something
  • Don’t interact well around other children
  • Have limited play skills (don’t share)
  • Resist new activities or the chance to new skills

Do keep in mind that those are but a few examples of how to tell whether or not a child has problems with school readiness. There will be others that you will need to navigate in order to help them on their way to school.

If you’re struggling to tell whether or not a child has a problem with school readiness, use a checklist. We’ve gone to the trouble of putting one together for you.

This checklist will inform you just how ready a child is for school. What’s more, it will also help parents and practitioners to outline any particular areas where they might be struggling. From there, steps will need to be taken for them to be school ready.

Children in a classroom learning

How to Help a Child With School Readiness

There are various steps that parents, and practitioners can take to ensure that children are school ready. Some are quite self-explanatory, others, not so much.

For example, if a child struggles socialising with others, then taking them to the local park could help simulate the feeling of being in a classroom amongst other children. An enabling environment like this could help them open up to others.

This is but one example of how you can help a child with school readiness, others include:

  • For Dependency Issues: Encourage children to perform actions on their own, such as dressing themselves, going to the toilet, eating, and leaving the house to collect items.
  • For Social Issues: Schedule ‘play dates’ with other children to help them communicate and share with others. Parents are typically the ones who facilitate this type of interaction.
  • For Reading Issues: You could read certain sections of a book to children to help them better understand how to pronounce certain words and what they mean – a key component in demonstrating articulation.
  • For Fine Motor Issues: Help a child prepare for school by drawing, cutting, and writing their own name at home. Repeated actions will help them adjust and feel more confident for when they have to do the same in school.
  • For Attention Issues: Work with a child’s preschool teacher to identify any potential deficits or slow development. The Learning Journals platform is perfect for this (more on that in a second).

Again, these are but a few examples of how you can help a child with school readiness. How you respond to a child will depend on what type of support they receive and a bunch of other factors.

What Is School Readiness and What Does it Mean for EYFS?

To recap, we’ve answered the ‘readiness meaning’ question, we’ve looked at what age school readiness applies to, the characteristics of school readiness, how you can tell when a child has a problem, and ideas on how to help children.

We also provided a helpful school readiness checklist for parents and practitioners to use when measuring how ready a child is for school.

Hopefully, you now have the information and tools you need to help children get ready for what is arguably the most important stage of their young lives. Just remember that school readiness is as much about what kind of support children receive as it is about how equipped they are already.

Observing is an integral part of school readiness. If someone isn’t monitoring a child before they go to school, then there’s no way of knowing how truly ready they are. School is quite a big step, which requires the right level of assistance from grown ups.

This is one of the reasons we created the Learning Journals platform – a platform that allows parents and practitioners to monitor and share a range of observations. You could say the platform was built for something like school readiness, given how comprehensive it is at keeping track of a child’s development.

The great thing about the platform is how it links parents and practitioners, to ensure that the development of the child is well and truly covered; even once they start school! This gives all parties piece of mind in knowing that the child is receiving the right level of support.

To see all of the benefits up close, request your free trial of Learning Journals today!

School Readiness FAQs

What is the meaning of school readiness in EYFS?

School readiness refers to how simple the transition is for children heading to school, and how adjusted they are socially, physically, and intellectually. Parents and practitioners use school readiness as a way to work out areas where they can help children in their development.

Why is school readiness important?

How school ready a child is will determine everything from how they perform, to how they develop, to how they feel. Working out how school ready a child is will help parents and practitioners identify areas where they can provide support to help them on their way through their education.

How can you tell if a child isn’t ready to start school?

There are various ways to tell whether or not a child is prepared for school. Their body language is one of the easiest ways to tell. Other ways to identify this include how dependent they are on parents, their social skills, and their responsive skills.

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