Helping children get ready for school is a joint effort, and it’s crucial to ensuring ongoing wellbeing. Health visitors, school nurses and Early Years providers in Hayling Island are working together on a “School Readiness” project to improve health outcomes for some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children. “School readiness can improve equity in access to education and learning outcomes and thereby ensure development of all individuals, societies and countries” (UNICEF).
The local children’s partnership identified an increase in the number of children starting school in nappies. To try to address this, we’ve taken a joint-working approach. The school nurse, health visitor and nursery nurse, school head-teacher, and Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO), pre-school SENCO’s and inclusion officer for children with physical disabilities, are all working together. We’re holding regular meetings between health and pre-school provision so that children and families get the support they need to get ready for school.
Through the project, we want to make sure that children are equipped with the social and cognitive skills they need to start school. This includes things like enthusiasm, curiosity and self-esteem and that schools provide opportunities for smooth transition into school with a learning environment which is supportive of continued development. And we don’t expect school to go it alone. Families and communities should be able to provide the right kind of opportunities for children to develop these skills and behaviours before school, and all services should be ready to support children universally and identify those with additional needs.
The project involved a number of key interventions to:
- Scope of current “school readiness” and presenting issues for children and schools, including an audit of continence issues at school entry
- Improve liaison and communication between Early Years, school and health providers through regular meetings to discuss individual children identified as needing additional support
- Develop an understanding of roles and responsibilities from different agencies in respect of continence
- Evaluate current provision and identify gaps to develop multi agency pathway
- Develop a Continence pathway to identify children and families needing help with continence in the Autumn term before starting school to ensure support can be given in a timely manner
- Ensure parent involvement
- Enable Nursery Nurses from Health Visiting team offer group and 1:1 support to parents to promote continence
And there is more planned to ensure families have the right kind of information – a school nurse website and leaflet about ‘a healthy child ready to learn’ because parents said they wanted these. There are also training resources which have been developed by Nursery Nurse and the Health Visiting team for pre-school staff evaluated and promoted via the Early Years SENCO. We are also developing a talk for new parents in school before children start, so that they are prepared and get support if needed. School Readiness information was developed in response to parent’s requests and this was distributed to all children who were due to start school the following September at the new entrant parent’s talk in June. The information included tips on skills and behaviours around mealtimes, getting dressed, independence with toilet use, communication skills and social behaviours and included contact information for 0-19 children’s health services.
The preliminary findings are really positive, with the school reporting no continence issues this year and children starting school with greater independence. The available resources are also receiving positive feedback from parents.
Claire Taylor is a School nurse with Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust- Hampshire 0-19 service