What is the B4 School Check? What does School Ready mean? How do I know if my child is Ready? Check the essentials to prepare your child for starting primary school.

It’s that time and it’s come round far too quickly. Your “baby” is going to school!  It can be a time of mixed emotions, questions and anxieties.  It can also be a time of great excitement for the ‘school starter’.

When your child starts school there is an expectation that he or she is capable of doing certain things.  This is called being ‘school ready’, or sometimes “school readiness”.

If your child has been attending ECE they are likely to have had a good lead in to school. Kindy or preschool is designed to prepare children for the transition to primary school, but there are also steps you can take at home to make the move smoother and hopefully easier for you all.

4 Year Old Health & Development Check


In New Zealand, your four year old child is entitled to a free health and development check, called the “B4 School Check“, which is the eighth and final of the Well Child health checks.

Parents will be contacted by your local B4 School Check provider, who will deliver you some forms before booking you and your child in for the 40 – 60 minute consultation. Take your child’s Well Child book with you to see the nurse.

A “behavioural questionnaire” and a “developmental” questionnaire must be completed  by parents — with the child’s ECE teacher contributing to part of the “behavioural” questionnaire.

With parental written consent, the B4 School Check is conducted with a specially trained registered nurse to help ensure that your child is healthy (including testing of vision and hearing, plus a check of immunisations) and can learn well at school. This represents an excellent opportunity for parents to clarify and discuss their child’s health and/or development with a nurse.

If you or the nurse perceives that your child has a problem or difficulty, then  the nurse may recommend a referral to appropriate health, education or social services.

For further information on the B4 School Check, refer to the Ministry of Health web page for NZ parents.

The School Starter

There are several skills and knowledge bases it helps for your child to have when s/he starts school.

There is an expectation that your ‘school starter’ should at least :

Know their name

He or she should be able to recognise their own name  (first and surname,) when it is written down.  They should also be able to tell you what the first letter of their first name is and be able to write it down.

Be well on their way to learning the alphabet

Your child should be able to begin and possibly end the alphabet. If there are ‘fuzzy’ parts in the middle, this will come.  He or she should be able to identify at least half the letters in the alphabet when they are written down.

Know basic colour names

It is helpful for your child to start school knowing the names of basic colours; red, blue, orange, yellow, green, black, brown, pink and purple.

Know basic item names

There is an expectation that your child will know the names of basic items they would find in a home or at school. These might be things like ‘chair’, ‘table’, ‘door’, ‘floor’, ‘mat’, ‘tap’, ‘toilet’, ‘book’, ‘pencil’ and so on. Labelling these things at home in the lead up to school will help with this.  It is also important that they realise that there are many names for things you can write with, for example there is ‘pencil’, ‘pen’, ‘crayon’, ‘felt tip’ or ‘marker’ and so on.

Use basic manners

By the time your child starts school, he or she should be using acceptable manners, things like ‘Thank You’, ‘Please’, ‘Excuse me’, ‘May I…’, ‘No thank you’ and so on.

They should be used to sharing and know that it is only acceptable to treat other people the way they themselves want to be treated.

They need to realise that it is not okay to shout at or hit others in order to show their disapproval or to gain their own way.  They should be familiar with the two common ECE refrains… “Use your words” and “Gentle Hands”.

Be toilet trained

When your child reaches school age he or she needs to be out of nappies and using a toilet.  They need to be able to wipe their own bottom (it doesn’t matter if your child is not dry through the night when they start school.)

The ‘School Starters’ – Mummies and Daddies

You will need to be prepared for when your ‘baby’ begins school also.  This will be as much a lifestyle change for you as it is for your child.  You can start by working on the things mentioned in the list above.  Help as much as you can by labelling things around the home, having your son or daughter write their name in the new books, quizzing them about things and taking an interest in their at-home learning.  There are other things you can do to put your mind at ease; to know they are ready and safe.

Make a daily plan

Talk each morning about who’s taking them to school and who’s picking them up and where you’ll meet.

Establish some routines and rituals that make mornings smoother and afternoons easier to manage – see Back to School – Rituals and Routines.

Use our Primary First Day Checklist of supplies — including clothing, equipment, stationery, paperwork — required on the first day at primary school.

Get to know friends and friend’s parents

Become familiar early on with who is in your child’s class and who their parents are.  Ask for phone numbers and addresses and form some relationships with them.  You may find you make some long lasting friendships with these parents.  You are likely to see them a lot at school for various reasons and you will have your children in common.

Monitor food and sleep carefully

You can also expect a much more tired little school monster in the first term of school.  It may take them a while to adjust to the long school day.  A few early nights may be on the cards and good meals always help, see Back to School – Healthy Breakfasts and Back to School – School Lunches.

Label everything

So that your young child does not lose lots of expensive equipment, it is important to  label all school clothes and gear – see Back to School – Labelling.

Managing anxiety

For more information on anxieties related to going to school read our article Back to School – Back to School Anxiety.

Good luck on your first day at primary school!

You should also check out our Preparing your child for school article. And for more expert advice on your child’s education, check out our School age: Education section.

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Kylie Valentine is a qualified secondary school teacher, trained journalist, and the mum of two fabulous children.

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It’s a real shame that most of this ‘school readiness’ article focuses on academic skills and not the more important personal, social & emotional aspects that make the most difference, to any child starting school. These types of lists cause unnecessary anxiety to parents & prompt them to sit their child down for inappropriate catch up lessons, which often makes their perceived ‘issue’ worse. Ask any qualified ECE or primary school teacher, to write a list of what makes a child ready for school – the academic stuff will be on the ‘nice to have’ list not the important must… Read more »


“When your child starts school there is an expectation that he or she is capable of doing certain things. This is called being ‘school ready’, or sometimes ”school readiness”.” As if this construct of “school readiness” is a universal, changeless facet of reality. Not even “it has been decided [by insert relevant parties here] that he is she will be expected to be capable of doing certain things”, but “there IS an expectation”. Here is the Before School Check behavioural/’mental health’ questionnaire. http://www.sdqinfo.com/py/sdqinfo/b3.py?language=Englishqz(Austral) Questions answered incorrectly that would get a child judged as ‘abnormal’ and in need of ‘intervention’ include… Read more »

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