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What to expect in Reception

Children running into school

Congratulations – your child has now started Primary school! The Reception class is about much more than colours and shapes, numbers and letters. This is the year that your child becomes ‘school-ready’; developing their independence, confidence, resilience and curiosity. It’s an exciting time, for children and parents, as their Primary school career begins.

As parents, we can feel anxious as our child begins ‘big school’ – how will they cope in a big classroom and in a large playground? Will they make friends easily? But very soon most children adjust to their exciting new environment.

What will my child do in reception?

This year your child will continue to learn by doing things for themselves, by exploring and investigating, watching and listening, talking and discussing, creating and communicating — in other words — playing. Play is children’s work and playing hard is very tiring! Your child may be really exhausted and perhaps a bit grumpy when they come home! If they don’t want to talk about their day straight away, don’t worry, they will gradually let you into their new world as time goes by. Play can also be very messy as your child will be learning both inside the classroom with sand, water, paint, but also in the outdoors with mud, leaves etc. so you can expect some mucky clothes at the end of the day!

All children in Reception follow a curriculum called the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) and this is broken down into 3 prime aspects and 4 specific areas of learning.

Personal, social and emotional development

One of the prime aspects of your child’s first year at school will be a focus on their personal, social and emotional development, and their teacher will be aiming to give them a good start to their school experience by helping them form positive relationships, build confidence and self-awareness, as well as manage their feelings and behaviour.

Physical development

Physical development is important too: you will hopefully notice that they are starting to move more confidently and to understand how to look after themselves and be healthy.

Communication

The final prime area this year is communication. Children learn through speaking and listening first and foremost, and this year you may notice your child communicating in a variety of ways at school — for example, through stories, in conversations with adults and their friends, or through facial expression, movement or dance.

For the specific areas of learning, your child will learn the basics of literacy — reading, writing and phonics. Many parents are daunted by phonics, but there’s no need to be! Your school will probably use a specific phonics scheme such as Read, Write Inc. but generally all will use the 44 phonics sounds and 18 diagraphs (two letters making one sound — sh, ch, th, qu, ng, ai, ee, ie, oa, oo/oo, or, er, ow, oi) to read and spell words. Don’t worry — the schemes progress gradually, and you will be given lots of helpful advice along the way! In maths, Reception classes will cover numbers, simple sums, shapes, spaces and simple measuring.

Children learn about the world, too, exploring different people and communities, and how we can use different forms of technology in our learning. Finally, imagination and creativity are championed in the area of expressive arts. Your child will explore different media and materials and be encouraged to use their imagination in a range of different experiences.

The key thing to remember here is that your child learns holistically. In other words, most of the time they will be learning all seven areas of learning together, in a fairly jumbled way. So if your child spends most of his time in the sand area there’s no need for concern! They may well be covering all kinds of important learning; working with different materials shapes, quantity and volume, creating imaginative worlds, feeling different textures, and even developing motor skills and strength for writing!

How can I help my child in Reception?

Talking and listening

Two-way communication is really important for Reception children — not to mention their anxious parents! The EYFS requires all children in Reception to have a key person, either a teacher or a teaching assistant who will make a special relationship with your child and be a point of contact with you. It’s really worth making sure that you know who it is and keep the key person up to date with what your child is interested in at home so that they can try to incorporate your child’s interests into the planning.

If you have any worries or concerns do please let the staff know about them. By talking concerns through together you can all benefit and learn more about your child.

Your child will be informally observed throughout their time in Reception and the teachers will use the observations to assess your child’s learning. You can do this too by making simple informal observations at home. Most Reception teachers encourage you to write WOW Moments or Magic Moments that can be added to your child’s Learning Journey (a simple document either a book or an electronic portfolio).

Read, read, read

Read to your child and encourage them to read to you. Read anything and everything, not just the reading scheme books. Real books, with pictures, rhyme and enjoyable stories are crucial here. Try to encourage your child to talk about the pictures, or to make predictions about what will happen next. It’s most important for your child to enjoy reading above all, so try to relax, and stop when either of you begins to feel pressured or anxious.

Encourage your child to recognise and read print when you are out shopping, on the bus or at the park. Most children can recognise the Golden M for McDonald’s a mile away!

You will probably be asked to fill in a Reading Diary each time you read with your child. This can be a really useful communication tool, so the more info you provide the better! The teachers are just wanting to find out about how things are going with your child’s reading and really don’t mind what you write so please don’t feel pressured at all here.

Help with phonics

Talk to your child about individual letters (especially the letters in their name) and their sounds. Singing songs and nursery rhymes really helps them to find out more about letters and sounds. Play I-spy when you go out (using the sound the letter makes, rather than its name).

Talk numbers

For maths, there are all sorts of ways to encourage number recognition. Try to involve your child in using numbers at home by singing number rhymes and songs or by encouraging them to recognise and read numbers when you are in the car. When shopping, ask them to select the number of apples or bananas you need — they’re helping you out, and learning at the same time.

Getting dressed independently

And finally, (and on a more practical note!), it is really useful if you can encourage your child can have a go at dressing themselves at home so that they can do themselves during the day. It’s often quite time-consuming for teachers to have to do up 20 zips on wriggly children bursting to go outside!

Top 5 Reception free resources on the Oxford Owl website

  1. You can find out more about the sounds of letters and digraphs on our Phonics made easy page
  2. Find out how to encourage number recognition on our Early maths skills page
  3. Choose one of our free eBooks to read together Boris Starts School might be a good one to read together with your child as they begin to prepare for big school.
  4. If you need help with choosing books for your child, you might find our Choosing books guide useful
  5. And finally, have a look at the video by Julia Donaldson on reading to your child

National Curriculum for England, Scotland and Wales

All information on Oxford Owl for Home is aligned with the National Curriculum for England. Much of this information is also relevant for children in Scotland and Wales, but do refer to the following curriculum links for more detail.
National curriculum in England: primary
Education in Scotland
School curriculum in Wales

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