School readiness assessments

Different schools might refer to the year before Grade 1 as either Grade R or Grade 0. This is the year in which your child is received into the world of formal education. This phase should create excitement about “big school”. If the foundation is strong, there should be no reason for your child not to cope in Grade 1. 

School readiness
From August onwards, there is usually a lot of talk about school readiness in the Grade R circles. In South Africa, your child has to start Grade 1 in the year that they turn 7. Your child’s biological age is, however, not the only thing that should be considered when you look at school readiness.
School readiness implies that your child is ready to cope with the formal demands of Grade 1. The different aspects that have to be considered are intellectual, emotional, social, perceptual and conceptual readiness. All of this can be measured with a psycho-educational school readiness assessment. 

A child that is not school ready will feel overwhelmed by what is expected of him/her in class. This could affect their confidence and self-esteem negatively and lead to them repeating an academic year. 

How will I know if my child should be assessed? 
Report cards and teacher feedback are a good place to start. You should, by now, have been able to identify if there is a concern about your child’s school readiness. Not every child has to be assessed, but if you have picked up on concerns from the school or if you feel unsure about one of the above-mentioned aspects of school readiness, an assessment could be helpful. These assessments are usually done in the second half of the Grade R year as your child matures. You also don’t want to leave it until the last month of the year, as you will need some time to address the different areas of growth.

Which tests should be included in a school-readiness assessment?
An intellectual assessment or IQ test could be included, but isn’t a prerequisite. This is important if there is a need to establish if a child will be able to cope in mainstream education or if they are going to need a more supportive environment. 
• A school readiness test that will measure scholastic skill readiness. This will include visual and auditory perceptual skills, concept development, fine motor skills, and gross motor skills.  
• An emotional assessment to identify any emotional challenges that might prevent your child from reaching their full potential in class. 

What you can do at home to develop school readiness skills
• Play on the jungle gym. Your child will need a strong core and shoulder muscles in order to sit still behind a desk and concentrate. 
• Complete mazes, trying to not touch the sides for fine motor control. 
• Play with clay or cookie dough to strengthen the small muscles of the hands and fingers so that they can hold a pencil correctly to write. 
• Play “Simon Says” to make them aware of their different body parts and their body in space. 
• Play memory games.
• Play “See the similarities/differences” in pictures or in nature. 
• Count out objects and sort them according to colour or shape. 
• Count objects in a picture. 
• Talk, sing and learn rhymes. 
• Include concepts like in front of, under, behind, inside, first, last, bigger, smaller et cetera in conversations or when you play and explain it when necessary. 
• Play board games where you have to take turns. Snakes and Ladders is ideal as it also includes counting and handling disappointment in a socially appropriate way.