The BBC has reported on the impact that lockdown has had on young children. The report says “Data from 50,000 pupils and a survey of schools across England have shown an increased number of four and five-year-olds needing help with language. Evidence shows poor speech development can have long-term effects on learning.” This suggests that children in Preschool and Reception classes across the country may have a difficult start to their education.
Staff at Heathfield Knoll School, Kidderminster, worked hard to prepare families for beginning Reception Class in September 2020.
Mrs Griffiths, Assistant Head and Head of Reception to Year 6 said, “We understood the importance of children still having interaction with school staff even when at home and being able to communicate easily with them. We are in a wonderful position in that most of our children join Reception from our Preschool but any opportunities would be opened to new children in the same way.”
Staff at Heathfield Knoll went the extra mile and set up transition days during the summer holidays. This ensured that the children had the same experiences as any other year group joining Reception Class. The children spent time with Miss Evans, the Reception Class teacher, and were able to explore their new classroom and the outdoor environment with their classmates taking part in activities such as a welly walk and story in the forest, picnics and art sessions in the classroom.
Handover from Preschool is important in any school and at Heathfield Knoll this transition was managed well with close discussion between the staff so that all fully understood the starting point for each child. Celia Swain, Head of Early Years said “One of our strengths is supporting children with transitions, particularly going into Reception. Children are supported in Preschool in all areas of their development for school readiness. Part of this includes Preschool children participating in Phase 1 phonics, which develops their speaking and listening skills.”
Heathfield Knoll has a dedicated Learning Support and SENCo team including a trained designated Early Years SENCo who undertakes interventions with children in the Early Years when speech delay has been identified.
Children at Heathfield Knoll were confident to interact with school staff as the wonderful outside areas allowed us to maintain a friendly and welcoming environment in accordance with COVID guidelines. Parental discussions supported any concerns or worries the parents may have had and began early to ensure that we could support families from the school and strengthen the wonderful work done in our Early Years setting. All of this work helped to ensure that the children had a strong start to Reception despite it being such a difficult year for everyone.