On Friday 9 June, hundreds of Peterborough children attended a School Readiness Festival on a warm day in Central Park to help them get ready for starting school in September. The festival was hosted by the National Literacy Trust’s Peterborough Reads campaign, thanks to funding from Arts Council England, and was supported by a range of community partners.
Families, nurseries, childminders and pre-schools who joined in Central Park were greeted with activities to help with school readiness, which can include supporting a child’s social development, relationship building, independence, self-care, fine motor skills, and early language development.
Activities included storytelling, scavenger hunts, magic bean planting, and even a haircut for Rapunzel! Local author Ellie Sandall led storytelling session aboard the library bus, and families were treated to a nursery rhyme session by Barnardo’s Children’s Centre. Each activity was designed to bring stories to life and encourage children to ask questions about the world around them, while also promoting those important skills they need to confidently start school. The National Literacy Trust also gifted free books to 230 children who attended the festival, with one child from a local nursery rating the day “100 out of 10”.
Other sessions were led by Family Action, Cross Keys Homes, Nene Park Trust, Barnardo’s, Portage, Peterborough City Council Early Years Team, Peterborough Limited Museum and Libraries, and Peterborough Lions.
“Peterborough’s school readiness campaign offers simple tips and activities to help build children’s confidence so that they begin school curious and ready to learn. Throughout the year, we take our school readiness events to early years settings across the city, building up to this fantastic festival for all practitioners, parents and carers to join in. We know that firm foundations in literacy build confidence, prepare young children to start school and enable lifelong learning. We want all children in Peterborough to have those opportunities.”Sally Atkinson, Hub Manager for Peterborough Reads
Children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds can start school as much as 19 months behind their more well-off peers in language and communication development. This gap was potentially worsened by the pandemic, with financial insecurity, lack of access to digital resources and stress. In 2021, 76% of schools said children who started reception needed more support than children in previous cohorts.
The festival was Peterborough Reads’ flagship event of the year and formed part of the National Literacy Trust’s Connecting Stories project with Arts Council England.
“We came last year and it was so brilliant we came again this year. I have seen so many different ways to engage children with stories that I will use when I return to my setting.”Early years practitioner who attended School Readiness Festival
“It was such a magical experience and showed me the importance of giving children time to be creative and use their imagination to talk about what they are doing.”Early years practitioner who attended School Readiness Festival