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What matters to children themselves when they start school?

Christine O'Farrelly, Ailbhe Booth (University College Dublin), Mimi Tatlow-Golden (The Open University), and Beth Barker

Why did we do this research?

We wanted to find out more about how we can make sure children have the best start in school – this is often called ‘school readiness’. Lots of the other work looking into school readiness has focused on what grown-ups (families, nursery teachers, and teachers) think is important. Surprisingly, we don’t know much about what matters to children themselves when they start school.

How did we do it?

We invited 4- and 5-year-olds from Dublin, Ireland to do some activities about how they were finding the 1st year of school. They answered questions, drew pictures, talked about illustrations that showed potentially challenging school moments, and gave their advice to Riley Rabbit a cartoon character who was about to start school.

What did we find?

What children told us formed 4 BIG IDEAS about what matters to them for a good start in school. They want to:

  • Feel able and enthusiastic for school
  • Know how to navigate peer relationships
  • Have supportive environments with opportunities to play
  • Have strong links between school and family


These ideas matter because they add new and important priorities to the ones adults already think about when they try to capture and support school readiness. You can find out more about the study in our resources below.

Research paper

Read our open-access research paper published in Early Childhood Research Quarterly.

Magazine article

Read our short magazine article published in Nursery World.


Watch our 2-minute video that summarises what we learnt from the children.