Life seems to move faster and faster, work-life balance is constantly challenging and stress is now something we expect to suffer from on a daily basis – not just a very occasional issue.

We look back at our schooldays and wish we could go back to when all we had to do was play and have fun with our school friends.  But that was before they applied learning standards from the moment a child starts school and up.

What happened to learning through play?  It’s probably less of a shock to those children who have had some experience of pre-school and have already got used to classes, being around lots of children and sharing.  Just imagine what it might be like for a 5 year old who has to get used to all that AND has to meet performance criteria.

Having to acclimatise to school and being plunged into learning to specific targets will almost certainly produce stress – for both child and teacher.

We’re not talking about just learning your numbers and letters here – children are being assessed for communication, language, social skills and maths.  The sad news is that for children from poorer backgrounds, the figures are lower.  They don’t fare as well as their better-off schoolmates in these subjects.

How can you help your children to hit the ground running when they get to school?

As a parent you can make a difference – without it costing anything except your time.  It’s about how you, as a family, approach learning.

  • Is it something that can be fun or does the family see it as a mountain to climb?
  • Do you help your children to recognise letters and numbers when they’re pre-school age or do you think that’s something only for the teachers to do?
  • Are your children encouraged to explore and learn and talk about things that interest them?
  • When your children ask questions do you answer them or, if you don’t know the answer, involve the child in finding out the answer?
  • Do your children know how to have a conversation – or do you follow the old maxim that children should be ‘seen, but not heard’?
  • When you read bedtime stories do your children follow the text in the book?

There are so many things that can help your child to get a head start when it comes to learning – and it’s all in your hands as their parent.