Starting School can be a scary time at the best of times let alone during a global pandemic! We understand that the whole process can seem overwhelming but it can also be really exciting even during the current situation. We’re here to take some of the guessing and stressing away and to give you some ideas about how schools might be planning to support and your child to get ready. Here I am just going to explain the possible processes for those whose children are starting school in September and give some information about what is likely to in the next few months before they start.
By now you should know which school your child has been allocated a place in a Reception class in a Primary School near to you. Hopefully this is a school you are really happy with and was one of your top choices. Unfortunately this isn’t always the case. If you haven’t been given the school of your choice or you are unhappy with the decision you will need to contact your Local Authority to find out about their appeals process for admissions.
Schools will have a list of children who are joining them in September and should now be sending out information about start dates and possible transition opportunities. Every school is different and so you will need to wait to find out what will be on offer to you and your child. Bear with schools, things are really manic right now trying to plan how to support children returning to school before the end of term. Of course you could always give them a call if you are impatient like me!
As I have mentioned all schools are different and what they offer to prepare both you and your child for school will differ massively. Below I have listed a few things that might be available this year to replace the ‘normal’ arrangements.
1. Dates and times for school in September.
Schools will tell you the first day of term and what time school starts and finished for your child. They will also tell you whether your child starts full time or on a staggered start. Full time means they go for the whole school day right from the get go. Some schools do a staggered start where children may go to school just for mornings in the first week, then for mornings and lunch in week two and build up to full time. As with everything in life people’s preferences for this will differ but staggered starts can be quite difficult for working families. If this will cause you a problem talk to your school as all children are entitled to start school in the September after their fourth birthday and therefore schools will have options for full time if you need it. Equally, if you want a staggered start for any reason and it is not the school policy just give them a call to talk things over.
These dates and times will be subject to change. Schools will probably let you know a plan A but rest assured they will have plans B,C,D,and maybe E ready for any problems with getting children into school. Schools are very good at planning for things to not always go to plan! There may be a more staggered start this year to enable smaller groups of children to be in the space – for distancing measures but also to have a more gentle start as many children are likely to have missed pre-school and nursery time.
Normally schools will arrange and invite you to meetings before you child starts school. These are usually in July and are really useful.
These meetings may be postponed until September or be delivered in a range of ways. Some schools are offering live broadcast sessions, others recorded videos, presentations or a long letter which may be available on their website or emailed to you.
During these ‘sessions’ or via this correspondence you will get the chance to ‘meet’ or see the teachers and normally the Headteacher too. You will find out really important stuff about uniform, lunches, what your child will learn, after school clubs and more. It is normally a great opportunity to meet the parents’ of all the other children in your child’s class who are all in the same position as you (nervous, petrified, excited, scared…..). The social aspect won’t be available this year so it’s a good idea to search on facebook etc for a parents page. Many schools will have a dedicated page for parents of September starters often set up by a lovely parent! These will be so valuable this year to make links with others, ask questions, find out about second hand uniform etc!
You are likely to be sent tonnes of paperwork from these sessions/ afterwards. You will probably receive this in the post this year. Some will need completing and returning so don’t be tempted to chuck it in the paperwork draw (or similar void like area in your house where paperwork is put and never found again!)
3. Transition sessions
Most schools offer transition or ‘settling’ sessions. These are opportunities for your child to spend some time in school to get to know their classroom, teacher/s and new friends. There are often a few sessions put on which you may be able to choose from. Some schools ask parents to stay but most expect you will leave your child there for the sessions.
Many schools have postponed these sessions until further notice. Some schools are planning sessions in the first few weeks in September and others are offering ‘virtual’ sessions using platforms like zoom or Seesaw. The teachers may send videos about themselves, the classroom and school in an attempt to give your child an experience of the setting before they start. Hopefully your school will soon be explaining to you what they are offering this year.
If there is a visit, do make sure they have any information about medical needs etc before you leave your child.
4. Home and pre-school visits
Most years schools will offer visits to see your child in a setting where they are already comfortable. If they are in pre-school or nursery then teachers will come and see your child and chat to their key worker before they start school. This is a really useful way for them to gather important information about how your child is getting on, what they like and don’t like and if possible spend some time getting to know your child.
Schools will still have these conversations via phone or skype call, but it is very unlikely that they will visit in person this year. They will also gather information from the nursery or pre-school about your child’s abilities and progress. These are often called transition documents or records and are a bit like a little school report for their new teacher.
Before the current situation lots of schools would also offer home visits which are very unlikely to be offered this year. Teachers like to have an opportunity to meet you and your child in a setting where you are relaxed and give you chance to ask questions or share concerns 1 to 1. These may be done via a skype or Zoom call this year or may be postponed until September. It’s a great way for them to bond with your child so that when they start school the experience isn’t so daunting. If you teacher has seen your cat, your basketball net, had a 1:1 conversation with your child even if it is via Zoom etc, then you know she/he is actually a normal and very lovely person and day 1 of school just seems so much more exciting! With this in mind I really encourage you to book a home visit or call if you can.
There might be lots of other events/ information that your school shares with you before September. Some set up buddy systems so your child has a friend in an older class when they start and some will give you booklets of ‘homework’ which your children can bring to school to share with their peers. Whatever is on offer try to get involved and find out as much as you can before the September mayhem begins!
Hopefully this has given you some useful information about what might be happening around this time for you and your child as you begin the journey into school life. The current situation can sometimes feel like everything has changed and while the methods of communication will be different, there will still be a huge amount which is the same. In our experience Reception teachers are wonderful humans, they have magical abilities to make children and parents feel welcomed and rest assured they will be doing all they can to make your child’s start to school the very best it can be no matter what.