Top Tips: how to get organised for your new school starter


Happy June! Can you believe that we are in June already? This year is speeding by at a colossal rate; we are now into the summer months and nearly at those wonderful summer holidays. If you have a new school starter, you might be thinking about the fast approaching start of school. A few tiny little months and your little one will be taking those first steps in through the school gates and embarking on their primary school journey. A journey that both you and your child have been thinking about, I’m sure, for a long time.

How are you feeling? Prepared? Scared? Excited? Anxious? All of the above and more? Starting school is a big step, for your little ones and you too. It can bring a whole host of emotions from nerves to excitement, worry to relief or even sadness that they are growing up so fast. Although it can be a scary step, it’s also an amazing journey. Children learn an incredible amount in their first year at school. They will begin to read and write, develop friendships, gain new maths knowledge, learn physical and emotional skills and so much more.


It might feel like children need to know lots to be ready for school but being ready can look different for each child. Teachers are a wonderful bunch and they know that every child is unique and will start school with their own individual needs and strengths. You don’t need to worry about whether your child knows the alphabet or can count to 20, school is where they will learn this and so much more. Being ready for school is more about children developing independence, confidence and a sense of who they are as growing little people. There are, however, some little things that are really helpful for them to practise before they start:

  • How to take their coat off and put it on.
  • How to follow a simple instruction e.g. find your coat.
  • How to go to the toilet by themselves.
  • How to wash their hands by themselves.
  • How to ask for help if they need it (what words/ gestures can they use?)
  • How to say goodbye to you or other caregivers at drop off (this can be tricky and it’s very normal for children to need some help from teachers so try not to worry.)
  • How to feed themselves and have a drink by themselves.

Try making things fun by having races, getting toys to join in and giving lots of praise when your child has a go.

But what about you? What about all of the school admin and upcoming events in the school calendar that you have never even heard of? Did you know that we have designed and created a School Starters Planner? Working in collaboration with all of our lovely members in our Facebook community, School Starters Hub, we have condensed the year into a handy bag-sized planner that not only looks good but is packed full of handy information to keep you one step ahead. Our planners are available to purchase on Amazon now and come in both a weekly view or monthly view format. They are aimed at providing you with all of the key information you will need to keep all those plates spinning by providing you with pre-populated pages with main dates for school events. World book day? Yes, I got the costume 2 weeks ago!

Here are our top tips to beat the school admin overwhelm! We’ve been on both sides of the classroom door and have found some important things to try and do to stay on top of it all.

1. Put all dates from school into the planner as soon as you can.

2. Use a phone calendar to set reminders and alarms for important things to remember.

3. Schools will communicate with you in lots of ways; emails, texts, newsletters and via an app. Check school communications regularly (the planner will remind you to do this)

4. Check your school app or website monthly to find the specific information to add to the planner.

5. Add the School contact details and all logins to the Important Info section, you’ll be so glad you did!

6. Add notes for weekly things to remember – letters or colour codes work well, for example add a red star every Friday if it’s a PE day.

7. Keep all of the information in here, then you won’t have to go hunting for bits of paper and you’ll feel like an organised superhero!

We hope that you find all of this information useful. As ever, let us know if you have any questions about your new school starter, school or life in general; we would love to hear from you.

Enjoy the sunshine,


Planning for positive School drop offs – for you and your little one.

Planning for positive School drop offs – for you and your little one.

Dropping off your child at the school gates can be an emotional time; you are probably thinking about how your little one might react? How are you going to react? Will they be ok? Will I be OK? After such an extended break and regardless of how many times you have done that drop off before, this year might have you feeling more worried about how it is going to go than normal.  We all want to do everything possible to ensure a positive school drop off experience of course we do.  So let’s explore this further.

Maybe this is your child’s first day/week or year at school or Pre-school, your first ever drop off or perhaps you are sending number 2 or 3 in for the first time.  Whatever your situation you may be experiencing some anxiety, worry or tension.  You might even be feeling it physically with a dull ache at the pit of your stomach, oh and you might be feeling guilty because you and a little bit, excited for what that drop off gives you! We are here to tell you that all these feelings are all perfectly natural and normal and you will likely feel some or all of them over the coming days and weeks. More often than not it’s more difficult for us to deal with drop offs than it is for our children. We can tell you this with confidence, we have first-hand experience both as Reception class teachers who greet those new curious eyes during those first days of school, but also as Mums who have had to drop our own children off and leave them in a new setting surrounded by new faces.

Your child will be experiencing a range of emotions too, but they might struggle to understand exactly what these emotions are and will find it difficult to verbalise them.  Some children will be confident and eager for these early days whereas others will avoid having any conversation about it at all. They are likely to have some fear of the unknown and obviously they are used to having you by their side to remind them that everything is ok. In the vast majority of cases those early drop off jitters are quickly overcome. Reception classes are exciting places, by design, and provide the perfect distraction to help your little one to relax and settle in quickly.  As you both become more familiar with the school’s set up and the routine of the school day it all becomes normal and the fear and worry quickly diminishes for both of you.

There are rare cases where this isn’t the case and little ones might need a little longer to settle in.  This is uncommon so if you feel that your little one is taking longer than the others to settle speak to your child’s class teacher, they will be experienced with this and you can work together to develop a plan to support you and your child.

As the big day approaches, we wanted to share some tips so that you can prepare yourself and your little one for positive school drop offs? There are many different tactics that you could employ to promote a positive school drop off.  In fact, the list can become quite overwhelming, so we have selected our top three for you:

1. BE CONSISTENT/ROUTINE– Remember this is just as hard if not harder for you as the parent. Much like a removing a plaster quick is usually better than slow and drawn out.  As teachers we have been there, many a time, in the classroom ready to start the day when some parents are still giving the 20th kiss and one more cuddle! We love kisses and cuddles too but be firm with what your expectations are for saying goodbye and try not to deviate from this.  If we have 10 kisses on Monday these little people will quickly learn they can drag it out to 15 or 20 by the end of the week.  A kiss and a cuddle then off to play with their new friends is perfect.

2. INFORMATION IS KEY– Your little one has an inquisitive mind, talk to them, let them know what you will be doing whilst they are at school? Involve them in the routine, let them know who is picking them up after class? Make sure you share routine of the school day with them so they can understand and take ownership? Remind them of the names of the class teacher and ask them about the names of their peers? Schools have amazing websites that are packed full of information regarding your child’s class, get involved and share this information with your little one. They, more often than not, have a comprehensive staff list that will enable you to tell your child the names of those that will be helping them at lunchtimes and those that will greet them at the classroom door. Knowledge is power – this is a great time to empower your child and help them to begin to learn to be independent even if you aren’t quite ready to let them go.

3. MINDSET– We all know that our children feed from our emotions so if we begin to falter, they will, no doubt, pick up on this too. Try and remain a positive Polly regardless of how pear-shaped the drop off is going and save the tears until those little feet are firmly inside the door. See if you can team up with other mums from your child’s class and do something really lovely after that first drop off- go for a coffee, cake or even a little shop. Anything to take your mind off of the anxiousness and worry. Remember, you will not be the only one feeling whatever emotions you are feeling so share that with others.


We really hope that you have found this useful and remember, whether you are excited, teary, anxious or all of the above you are not the only one feeling this and it is totally normal. Good luck for that first week- we do hope you have a really positive school drop off experience – stay strong, you can and will do this.

If you are still nervous and would like a little more support and guidance through the coming days and weeks our positive drop offs mini course is designed to give you and your child the tools to create confidence when separating at the start of the day.

  • Ted our lovable bear provides engaging sessions and fun activities for your and your little one to enjoy together.
  • We also provide you with an adult guide to coach you through preparing for and creating positive drop offs.
  • With 2 videos, a download with 3 activities and a reward chart we set you up for positive drop offs whatever time of year.

Click below for more information and to join us.


Vix + Em

Positive Drop Offs Mini Course

Uniquely designed course to involve your child in the process of creating a positive drop off experience.


Making Sense of Reports

Making Sense of Reports

As we are edging closer to the end of the academic year, we thought it would be a wise idea to talk about reports. Reports, do exactly what they say on the tin, tell you (report to you) what your child has achieved (attained) throughout the year. Every school has a unique way of reporting back to you this information, but hopefully by deciphering the key terms, this blog post should help you understand how your child is doing academically. 

If your child is in Reception, then you are likely to have seen these terms in your child’s report. The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum is slightly different to the rest of the school and therefore it is assessed in a different manner. Throughout the year your child’s teacher will be assessing your child’s development and attainment against 7 key areas:

  • Personal, Social and Emotional Development
  • Communication and Language
  • Physical Development
  • Literacy
  • Mathematics
  • Understanding the World
  • Expressive Arts and Design

Alongside these areas of learning, your child’s learning behaviours will also be reported upon. In reception we call these the ‘characteristics of effective learning’ (CoEL) and they focus on HOW the children learn rather than what they know. There are 3 characteristics that have been identified by the EYFS: playing and exploring, active learning and creating and thinking critically

At the end of the year, in your child’s report, you may also notice the term ‘Good Level of Development‘ (GLD). If your child has met the expectations for the end of the year across 5 of the 7 key areas they will have achieved a ‘good level of development’. 

The 7 key areas (listed above) have three end of year outcomes:

  • Expected – your child has made expected progress throughout the year
  • Emerging–  your child has not quite met the expectations (is working below the expected level)
  • Exceeding–  your child is working above the expected level

For your child to achieve a GLD during their foundation school year that must have achieved an expected or exceeding judgment in the three prime areas of learning (personal, social and emotional development; communication and language; and physical development) as well in Literacy and Mathematics. 

For a more in depth read on the EYFS framework and it’s assessment during the Foundation year; click on the button.

To read the Department of Education’s publication on the Early Years Outcomes; click on the button.

If your child is in Year 1-6 then you may see the term ‘ARE’ in their report. ARE stands for Age Related Expectations and these are a set of objectives that the National Curriculum has set out for each year group. Your child’s teacher will assess whether your child has met these objectives for the year group and will state this in their report using the following terms:

  • Working Towards – not yet met the objectives for that year group
  • Working At – meeting the objectives for that year group
  • Working at Greater Depth – mastered the objectives for that year group

This school’s website lists the ARE for each year group for reading, writing and maths. 

If you have a spare 5 hours (!!) here is the National Curriculum for Primary Schools (KS1 & 2).


During the summer term, your child will have taken part in a Phonics Screening assessment. This is a tool used to help teachers assess how well your child can blend the sounds that they have learnt across Foundation and Year 1. There is a total of 40 real words and non words that you child will have had to read and in order to pass this assessment they will have had to read 32 of them accurately.


Just a little note about SATS here as you may be getting these results too in a letter or separate section on the school report. SATs (Standard Assessment Tests or End of Key Stage Assessments) are tests which children sit in Year 2 and 6. The results are given using the same language as we have talked about above; Working Towards, Working At and Greater Depth for Reading, Maths and SPAG which is spelling grammar and punctuation. These are tests that children will have taken in school during May. Teachers give an assessment for Writing as there are no writing tests. 

Year 2 tests work slightly differently to Year 6 as they inform teachers decisions about your child’s assessment and they are marked in school. If your child is Working Towards, don’t panic. There may be many reasons for this and we would advise popping into school if you have any concerns. Your teachers will be able to talk you through any areas which your child found difficult and give you ideas to help at home or explain how they can offer extra support in school.

Year 6 SATs are sent off to be marked and the results are given as scaled scores. Don’t let this confuse you, I’ll give you the basic version beacuse it is, in fact, very confusing!! Basically if your child scores 100 or more then they have passed and get ARE (Age related expectation for year 6) and if they score lower than this then they are Working Towards. The score helps you to see how far off they were, for example 98 is very close to 100 and your child is probably very ready for Secondary School. As with the above comments please don’t panic if your child hasn’t passed or got a low score, pop into school and have a chat to their teacher if you would like to find out how to help them at home. The tests only measure part of your child’s knowledge on one particular day and there is so much they miss; sporting ability, kindness, loyalty, empathy, listening skills, artistic creativity and the list goes on. There is lots of controversy about the testing of children at a young age, but that’s for a whole other blog post at another time!!

For now, we hope you have received a report which, with these little jargon busters, makes sense and is a true reflection of your child’s unique personality and values all of their qualities. Any questions, as always contact us via social media or in the comment section below.



So we are back to the world of phonics this week and delving into the concept of trigraphs.

If you have already read our blog post on digraphs (see here) you will know that they are simply two letters that make one sound. So, yes, you’ve got it trigraphs are three letters that, when placed side by side, will make one sound. The mind boggles!

If we look at the word ‘sigh‘ it is made up of two sounds; the initial s making this sound…..

and the igh is making the final sound……

Easy peasy! The tricky part is getting your child to spot them within words whilst reading. Typically, your child will begin learning their trigraphs during Year 1 and will be taught to include them in their writing as well as spotting them whilst reading. 

(If you would like to see the full episode of Alphablocks that focuses on the igh trigraph click here )

Supporting Your Child At Home

Listed below are some words containing the 4 trigraphs your child will initially learn during their phonics sessions (this number will increase as they learn their alternatives-we will touch more on that later…) This is nowhere near a comprehensive list- just a few words containing the trigraphs to help you get started at home. 

As always, we will be providing examples of ways of supporting your child with learning these trigraphs over on our Instagram page (if you haven’t already, go and give us a follow here). 

  • Ear
  • Gear
  • Hear
  • Tear
  • Rear
  • Dear
  • Near
  • Fear
  • Year
  • Beard

  • Fair
  • Pair
  • Chair
  • Lair
  • Hair
  • Stair(s)

  • Lure
  • Pure
  • Cure
  • Secure
  • Manure

  • Sigh
  • High
  • Light
  • Night
  • Right
  • Sight
  • Fight
  • Tight
  • Might


Click on the button to link you to online magnetic letters. You could ask your child to write words containing one of the trigraphs (using the list above). Or you could write words that have a missing trigraph and ask your child to fill in the blanks. This is by no means a replacement for the real life alternative, but just in case you don’t have these at home.

If you hadn’t noticed already; we are huge fans of Alphablocks on CBBC. As well as providing accurate sounds they also have some fantastic online resources. Click on the button to discover more!

Finally, go and visit our Pinterest board dedicated to all things trigraphs for some inspiration for games and activities. You can find us here cool


Thanks for taking the time to read our posts; we do hope that they are useful to you as parents. As always, let us know if you have any questions or concerns. Happy trigraph-ing (most definitely made that up).

Blending and Segmenting

Blending and Segmenting


Breaking down words into their sounds (segmenting)

Combining sounds to read words (blending)

Blending is a technical term used by teachers when they are teaching your child early reading skills. During a phonics session, your child will initially learn single sounds relating to a single letter (or grapheme). They will learn, according to what phonics scheme your child’s school follows, a sequence of sounds and when they have learnt enough of these sounds, will be taught to combine them or push them together in order to read short words. Sounds tricky hey? It’s painful! Blending can take a while for a child to master and the key to success is to encourage your child to keep practising their sounds and slowly they will learn to blend them. The trick is, again, to feel confident with the sounds that the children are reading so you can help them blend or combine them to read a word. Watch out for those tricky words though!!

Our top tip with blending with your child when you are reading at home is just to be extremely patient. Let them have a go before you tell them the correct pronunciation! It can take a while to even read a page when children are learning this skill but just doing a little at home can help boost your child’s confidence.  If your child has made a mistake or is struggling with a word- perhaps read the sounds out for them and ask them to blend them together. Let them get it wrong and let them work out that they’ve done it wrong.

Alphablocks is just fantastic! Check out this video that demonstrates the blending process.

A selection of online games to support Blending

These games work well laptop or desktop but may not be phone or tablet friendly, sorry!

The read with phonics website has some brilliant games and works on your phone and tablet. To play all of them you need to pay an upfront cost (currently £7.99 but I’d say worth it for some great content if you like online games. The ‘build a phonics word’ game models blending really clearly!

Segmenting- funnily enough- is the exact opposite.  Children will need to learn how to do this in order to spell and subsequently write sentences. Your child will need to hear the sounds within a word and then break these sounds down and put them in the right order. Again, sounds outrageously complicated and it is really tricky, but through practise your child will grasp this quite easily. 

 During my daily phonics sessions I often say a CVC word and then ask the children to break it down into the first sound that they can hear when the word is said out loud, then the last sound that they can hear in the word and then – when they are ready- the middle sound. It is a gradual process and for those children that are new to reception you might want to just focus on the first sounds that they can hear when you say words. Have a practise when you are out and about; spot animals and see if you can work together to find out what sound is at the beginning of their name.

Towards the end of the reception your child will be asked to segment words when they are writing and match these sounds to their corresponding graphemes and this is the strategy that they will learn as they move through the school.


Here is a selection of online games to support Segmenting

Forest Phonics is mobile friendly!

The ‘teach your monster to read’ website (links below) has some great content too. Free access to a certain amount is in the teacher area. The songs are really catchy and help with remembering those letter sounds. The mini games have several options for blending and segmenting and it’s all mobile friendly!


Finding this helpful? Please spread the word :)