Developing School Readiness: Creating Lifelong Learners


Kathryn Peckham

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  • Chapters
  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
  • Subject Index
  • Copyright


    To James, Evelyn and Steven in thanks for their endless support and encouragement and whose love of learning are a testament to the experiences we all cherish.

    About the Author

    Kathryn Peckham , having initially trained as a secondary school teacher of mathematics, fell in love with the early years and made the move in 2005. Retraining by gaining her Early Years Professional Status and a Masters in Early Years, she worked within early years practice for many years, managing a number of settings and advising others through her monthly column in Nursery World. Going on to direct early years care and education at senior management levels, Kathryn combined practical experience with strong theoretical knowledge to lead practice throughout many settings. With research interests in outdoor play and the effects of early experiences on children’s lives, Kathryn is an active member of Early Childhood networks, a consultant to outdoor play designers and actively involved in the All Party Parliamentary Group on A Fit and Healthy Childhood, contributing to publications making a real difference in the lives of young children. Presenting research at international conferences and a keynote speaker, Kathryn’s engaging style and delivery has inspired those interested in early childhood at all levels. Having taught across under-graduate and post-graduate programmes at three universities, as a Senior Lecturer Kathryn has led the Foundation Degree in Early Years. Retaining her love of practice, Kathryn also guides and supports early years settings. For more information see


    Great thanks goes to Jan White who gave me the early inspiration and encouragement to be a voice for children, exploring and realising the beliefs I hold dear, and to Dr Jane Murray for her encouraging interest and for reading my early work.

    And also to the hundreds of children I have had the pleasure of playing with, observing and nurturing the curiosities that fuel their passions.

    About the Book

    At a time of increased focus on the style and degree of ‘school readiness’ displayed within our young children, this book will promote thinking and debate around the issues concerned with preparing children for school. With reference to early years curriculum throughout the UK, the historic context of early years provision, political agenda and key research in the profession it will ask how we have arrived at this point, challenging current perceptions and refocusing attention on the holistic needs of the developing child.

    Presenting ideas underpinned with consideration for how children grow and develop, the book will discuss the far-reaching potential of early childhood experiences to affect not only future academic success but also children’s attitudes towards all learning and the degree to which any future opportunity will be embraced. In doing so it identifies the importance not of ‘school readiness’ but of preparing children for a lifetime of learning; a process begun from birth that continues throughout life, creating confident, courageous and self-motivated learners.

    By recognising the unique potential of early childhood this book celebrates the diversity of children and their wide-ranging abilities and skills, suggesting that children’s readiness for school cannot be ascertained through any pre-determined set of testable, quantifiable abilities, but through a plethora of characteristics, attitudes and frames of mind that develop through play-rich experiences throughout early childhood and beyond. By examining how intrinsic behaviours and approaches to deep thinking and learning can be nurtured within language and sensory-rich environments that promote social and experiential learning during these precious years, this book will present a new way of thinking that considers what it means to equip children with the vital foundations for all future learning, the features required for Lifelong Learning.

    By focusing in turn on each of the familiar age groupings found within the early years (babies, under-twos and under-fives), Chapters 8, 9 and 10 consider how the features of Lifelong Learning can be developed and delivered, illustrating its influence on future learning. By demonstrating the impact of embedded practices throughout children’s early years, these chapters demonstrate how preparation for formal education must be delivered not solely within the later stages of preschool but nurtured and promoted through every experience of young children’s lives, cultivating deeper features of learning and thinking that grow with every future positive learning experience. Exploring the premise that these principles do not end as school begins, Chapter 11 looks at the importance of nurturing the features of Lifelong Learning throughout the practices of the school classroom.

    However, none of this is possible without the informed understanding and conviction of key figures within children’s lives. Celebrating the potential of effective practitioner and parental actions, attitudes and practice, Chapters 5 and 6 focus on these key groups, recognising the impact of effective guidance and support. Points of reflection throughout all chapters encourage consideration of current practice, suggesting ideas and alternative views to promote wider discussion amongst all involved with the care of children. Concluding remarks highlight 10 key concepts from the chapter and supplies recommendations for further reading to extend understanding. The conclusion also offers a practical project to explore the issues raised, future activities to allow the reader to relate these to practice and a work-based task to enable the concepts discussed to be used. To enable understanding and promote further study, a glossary is provided at the end of the book.

    Intended for anyone concerned with offering children the best chance of future success during their early years, this book will appeal to practitioners, teachers, parents and students anywhere, offering a new lens to view children’s achievements through and the rationale to promote and support further debate, ensuring they themselves can remain committed, Lifelong Learners.

  • Glossary

    Baseline assessments

    Introduced from September 2016, this non-compulsory national testing of reception-aged children aims to assess the level of development at the beginning of formal schooling in order to record progression by the time they leave primary school. Provided through three approved providers, the Baseline Assessment will replace the EYFS Profile. Correct at the time of writing.


    The use of more than one language being spoken.

    Characteristics of effective learning (CofEL)

    The CofEL consist of playing and exploring, active learning, and creating and thinking critically. By considering the ways children engage with other people and their environment, they underpin learning and development across all areas of learning within the EYFS (England) with the aim of supporting children’s effective and motivated learning.


    Cognitive development considers specific aspects of children’s brain development, such as processing of information, their understanding of concepts, their perceptual skills and language learning.

    Cultural expectations

    Cultural expectations imply a drive for academic excellence. These can be related to gender issues that see different ideas of what is expected of girls and boys.


    Success at one level provides the abilities to be more successful at the next. For example, children with more established speech can ask the questions needed, and better reading abilities allow for quicker mastering of future texts.


    Learning that is returned to as approaches are reconsidered and abilities strengthened.

    Discrete abilities

    The unconnected tasks that children can perform. For example, counting to 10 without any real understanding of what these words relate to.

    Every Child a Talker

    Funded by the DCSF across all local authorities on a three-year rolling programme between 2008 and 2011, Every Child a Talker (ECAT) was designed to help practitioners and parents create a developmentally appropriate, supportive and stimulating environment for children to enjoy experimenting with and learning language, becoming confident and skilled communicators before they start school.


    That which is stated clearly rather than implied or open to interpretation such as legislation.

    Family Nurse Partnership

    Introduced in England in 2007, The Family Nurse Partnership (FNP) is a voluntary home visiting programme. Regularly visiting first-time young mothers from the early stages of pregnancy until their child is two, it aims to enable them to have a healthy pregnancy, improve their child’s health and development, plan their own futures and achieve their aspirations.

    Formative assessment

    A process of formal and informal assessments throughout the learning process to inform future planning, this will consist of observations, informed knowledge about the child and information given by others involved in the child’s development.

    Foundation years

    The years from birth until the September following a child’s fifth birthday.

    Free entitlement

    A government initiative to offer free childcare hours to working parents.


    Opportunity to move freely between environments, including accessing the indoor and outdoor space as they wish.

    Healthy Child Programme

    Published under the 2005–2010 Labour government, this programme covering pregnancy and the first five years focused on a universal preventative service, providing screening, immunisation, health and development reviews, supplemented by advice around health, well-being and parenting.


    One skill building on another. For example, learning to stand before you can run.

    Holistic learners

    Children learn from all things at all times, enabling them to make connections in their learning.

    Horizontal transitions

    Moving environments during the course of the day. For example from home, to setting, to the outdoors.


    That which is not necessarily written down but is commonly understood.

    Insignificant practices

    Little changes that can have great effect, such as turning the radio off in the car to have a conversation, taking the time for a toddler to walk short distances even though a pushchair would be quicker, or using dummies only for sleep time.


    Factors affecting the older generations of a family naturally impacting on the experiences and expectations of the children, which is in turn passed on to their own families.

    Key worker

    Intrinsic within the EYFS (England), a key person (or key worker) is a named member of staff with care and development responsibilities for a small group of children. Through attending to physical and intimate needs, care is tailored to individual children, nurturing feelings of security. An accessible point of contact, relationships are built with children and their families as detailed records are kept and shared.

    Linear learners

    Learning that follows a straight sequential path with each element building on the one before.


    The world that exists in the child’s mind – not limited by the realities of the environment or resources that are available.


    The child’s immediate surroundings.


    A highly complex environment full of new things to cope with that we may not fully appreciate and cannot underestimate.


    That which brings together the opinions and knowledge of relevant professions working within early years including health, care and education.


    Having many different features and roles to play.

    Nuances of speech

    The subtle differences in speech.

    Ofsted Childcare Register

    A register of providers who are registered by Ofsted to care for children from birth to 17 years. In addition to the Early Years Register that covered those looking after children within the foundation stage, this has two parts: compulsory for those caring for children under age eight, and a voluntary part for those wishing to register for older children.


    A figure of speech where the two terms used seem to contradict each other.

    Parent forums

    Meetings to discuss the setting attended by parents and staff so that a representative view can be considered.


    The experiences offered to children cannot be the same as they must be tailored to individual need. However, care must be taken so that the level of quality and accessibility is always equivalent.


    The methods and practices of teaching.


    The information gained from all around us, not solely that which we focus on.


    The brain’s ability to change and adapt itself as a result of learning experiences.

    Prime areas

    Communication and language, physical development, and personal, social and emotional development. These form the focus for working with the youngest children to build a basis for successful learning in the specific areas, with more equal focus on all areas of learning as children grow in confidence and ability.


    The sense of self, of knowing where your body is without needing to look. Coming from the central nervous system, this allows us to drive without looking at our feet and to find our mouth without looking at the fork.

    Pupil profiles

    These EYFS Profiles (EYFSPs) are an assessment of children’s developments at the end of the EYFS across the 17 Early Learning Goals.

    Qualified Teacher Status (QTS)

    The professional status that must be held to take a teaching post in a maintained school in England.

    Resource packs

    A selection of resources that deliver an idea or activity through various media or approaches. This could include a book of the Three Little Pigs, three toy or puppet pigs and a wolf, masks or costumes so that the children can play the parts, representative pieces of hay, straw and brick and a fact sheet that draws attention to the learning potential of the activity.

    Rote delivery

    An approach to teaching and working with children that is heavily planned and delivered as intended without being reactive to the children’s needs or the experiences of the day.


    A temporary support given to children as they acquire new skills that will gradually be removed as these skills are mastered.

    Schematic behaviours

    Driven by children’s interests and needs, this deeply powerful learning mechanism involves repeated, sometimes compulsive actions and behaviours enabling children to discover underpinning structures of the world around them.


    How much we believe in our own abilities to achieve a task or succeed in an endeavour. A measure of our own self-worth.


    Opportunities for children to explore the experience they wish to, rather than being directed into one of someone else’s choosing.

    Social mobility

    The ability to move oneself or one’s family from one social grouping to another, for example out of poverty.

    Specific areas

    As prime areas are secured these are strengthened and applied through the specific areas of literacy, mathematics, understanding the world and expressive arts and design.

    Stay and play

    Opportunities for parents to attend a session, spending time with their child whilst gaining an understanding of the practices and activities taking place.


    Financial support from state funds.

    Summative assessment

    Assessed at the end of a key period of time to provide a summary of progress, this takes place with the prime areas between the ages of 24 and 36 months and at the end of the EYFS in the EYFS Profile (or baseline assessment).

    Sure Start

    A government area-based early intervention programme providing a range of integrated support services for children under five and their families at accessible community locations. Offering a broad range of services that focus on family health, early years care and education and improved well-being programmes, it aims to support disadvantaged families from pregnancy to give children the best start in life.


    How information is passed through the connections within the nervous system.


    Real examples that children can experience, touch and manipulate.

    Two-year development review

    A requirement of the EYFS (England), this one-to-one meeting with parents and follow-up written summary assesses their child’s learning and development, identifying strengths and the need for extra support. Accompanied by the integrated NHS development review at 27 months, the aim is to promote positive outcomes in health and well-being, learning and development by facilitating appropriate intervention and support for children and families where it is needed.

    Vertical transitions

    Progressive movements through rooms in the setting, from the baby room, to toddlers, to preschool and then up to school.

    Windows of developmental opportunity

    Critical periods when positive experiences may be most beneficial in the developmental process.


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