It’s always a little nerve-wracking when children begin primary school. Starting Year 1 is a huge milestone in their development that can trigger a lot of parental anxieties.

It’s almost inevitable for caregivers to feel apprehensive. Many will be asking themselves whether their child is ready to begin their formal education. If this sounds like you, it might be worth taking note of some of the milestones your child has probably reached before taking the big jump. Bear in mind that this list is not exhaustive nor rigid. Your child could be ready even if they do not meet these criteria­– it’s always worth checking with their teachers. 

They are independent 

Is your child happy to spend some time without you? It’s very normal for you to be their favourite person, but as they grow older, they will begin to get a sense of pride from completing activities on their own. They should have a certain level of independence before they embark on their primary school journey. If they are already doing things like getting dressed, eating their food by themselves, and playing with their friends without your help, they are most likely independent enough to graduate from Reception! 

They have social skills 

Primary school is a social environment and children need to be ready to interact extended hours with other youngsters. Before starting primary school, your child should be familiar sharing their toys, using turn-taking language like “whose turn is it now?”, “please” and “thank you”, and joining in with some basic conversations. Some kids are naturally more outgoing than others, but as long as they can respect other children’s boundaries, they should be ready for primary school. 

They can take care of their hygiene 

Accidents happen, but before sending your child to primary school, they should know how to clean themselves without a grownup’s help. This entails knowing when to go to the toilet, undressing and dressing themselves, wiping their bottoms and washing their hands. Having these skills will protect your child from embarrassment, make their educators’ lives easier and help maintain a clean, healthy classroom.  

They have a good routine 

Schooling is all about consistency – every weekday begins and ends in similar ways and at similar times. This predictability is essential for children to feel comfortable and safe. However, it might also take some getting used to. If your child can stick to a bedtime routine for most days, sleeps consistently through the night so they’re not tired in the mornings, and is used to eating meals at predictable times, they are most likely ready. 

 They can concentrate 

Let’s face it – children’s attention span is not great. Regardless, they will be expected to sit and listen to their teacher at short intervals throughout the day. It’s good to practice reading with them with little or no breaks or playing some educational games. This can help you gauge their focus and ability to listen. If they can concentrate for 10 to 15 minutes, they are ready to go!

This goes without saying, but all children are unique. This checklist is only a suggestion and not every point will be relevant to everyone. Also, these points do not account for some of the challenges that can come from learning difficulties, disabilities, or other health conditions, so please consult a specialist if you’re worried about your child’s primary school preparedness.

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Oxford Owl. (2021). Getting ready to start school. Retrieved from: 

Professional association for childcare and early years (PACEY). (2021). Being school-ready. Retrieved from: