Created in collaboration with our early years expert. 




According to a survey published by the NAHT in September 2017, 86 percent of school leaders believe that school readiness has worsened in recent years. Many respondents feel that failure to identify and support children’s additional needs is one of the main reasons why teachers feel that children are not school ready.

This guidance document will explore how school readiness can be identified, and at what stage early years practitioners and parents should have pupils at before entering the Reception classroom.

Important skills


The following table lists the behaviour of pupils as indicators of school readiness and expectations that a Reception teacher would have of a pupil starting school − these behaviours have been broken down into seven areas of learning.

Area of learning


Communication and language:

Indication of learned behaviour

The child can:

The child is:

Communicate their needs or feelings to an adult.

Beginning to ask for help or what they need.

Look at pictures and talk about what they see.

Pointing out main characters and asking questions about what is happening.

Talk in sentences and extend their vocabulary.

Using vocabulary that they might have heard from other adults or children in context (e.g. repeating phrases back in sentences will encourage them to copy and repeat).

Sit and listen for short periods of time.

Sitting and listening to a story read by an adult, or whilst an adult is talking to them.

Follow a simple instruction or rule.

Following a single step instruction, such as being asked to put on their shoes.


Personal, social and emotional development

Indication of learned behaviour

The child can:

The child is:

Interact with others.

Beginning to play interactively with others rather than alongside other children.

Play games with other children.

Understanding the concept of taking turns without adult intervention.

Share toys and taking turns.

Starting to develop a concept of what ‘fair’ looks like when giving other children a turn with toys.

Start to make friendships based on interests.

Starting to play with the same children regularly, exploring the same type of game or toy together.

Be comfortable to be away from their family in other settings.

Not upset when dropped off at a nursery or childcare setting.

Tidy up after themselves when asked.

Looking after their own belongings.


Physical Development

Indication of learned behaviour

The child can:

The child is:

Take off and put on shoes.

Fastening shoes with Velcro straps.

Use a knife and fork.

Eating food that has been cut into smaller pieces.

Open simple packets by themselves.

Able to do this during snack time.

Go to the toilet independently.

Managing their personal hygiene.

Eat snacks independently.

Eating raisins, cut up fruit or veg and rice cakes, managing a variety of textures and options.

Understand when they need to wash their hands.

Washing their hands after the toilet, before snack time, or when dirty from painting.

Tell an adult if they don’t feel well or if they are hungry.

Expressing themselves clearly using ‘please can I have’ if asking for something.

Put on their coat.

Starting to close a zip.

Get dressed with some assistance.

Needing help in the first instance with buttons or putting on tights.

Hold a pencil effectively.

Working towards a controlled Tripod Pincer Grip.

Trace patterns.

Tracing spirals, curls or zigzags.



Indication of learned behaviour

The child can:

The child is:

Recognise their name.

Able to pick out their name from a list or on their bag.

Hold books the correct way round and turns pages.


Looking at books by themselves or when an adult is reading to them.

Recognise familiar signs and logos.

Recognising common signs such as the Tesco or Lego sign.

Mark, make, and say what they have written.

Using pencils, crayons or paint to make marks and identifies what the marks might say.



Indication of learned behaviour

The child can:

The child is:

Count to ten or beyond.

Counting orally or using fingers, saying one number name for each item.

Recognise familiar numbers and recalls them.

Able to recite their age, door number, phone number or the number of the bus they might take regularly, and can recognise some of these numbers when written down.

Join in with number rhymes.

Singing songs such as ‘5 Little Monkeys’ or ‘Once I Caught a Fish Alive’.

Play counting games with an adult.

Counting claps or steps when walking.


Understanding the world

Indication of learned behaviour

The child can:

The child is:

Ask questions about what they see or hear.

Making observations of changing seasons, peoples’ occupations, or what they can see out of the window.

Show concern for living things.

Taking some responsibility in caring for a pet or, for example, making a bird feeder.

Show curiosity to new things or people.

Interacting with new toys, or a new person they haven’t met before, in an appropriate manner.

Use technology to enhance play, such as cash registers or phones.

Pretending objects are real or uses real props to support imagination.


Expressive art and design 

Indication of learned behaviour

The child can:

This child is:

Begin to build up their imagination during play.

Imitating what adults say or do, such as feeding the baby, or shopping in the supermarket.

Use construction toys to build items that reflect interest.

Building castles with blocks, or a zoo for animals with Duplo, before acting out scenarios.

Show an interest in musical activities.

Joining in with singing or dancing activities, or uses instruments to make simple rhythms.