Back to school: Advice to parents as children prepare for first day at primary school

PUBLISHED: 14:37 01 September 2014 | UPDATED: 14:37 01 September 2014

It can be a worrying time for parents and children alike – the first day at primary school.

A new survey commissioned by the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years found that 71pc of mums and dads are concerned about their son or daughter going to school, with more than half saying they would have liked more help in preparing their child for the big moment.

Gordon Boyd, assistant director of children’s services at Norfolk County Council, offered parents some advice to calm nerves and prepare them for the all-important days and weeks to come.

First, he stressed how the process was a three-way partnership.

“The successful start at school is definitely something that works well in almost all cases, and that’s because parents, the child and the school work together to make it successful”, he said.

Norfolk County Council assistant director of children services Gordon Boyd. Photo: Steve AdamsNorfolk County Council assistant director of children services Gordon Boyd. Photo: Steve Adams

“Parents know their children very well and so are extremely well placed to help their child to tune in to this new experience and provide a bridge from what they were doing before.”

Mr Boyd said schools should give parents good communication and clarity of expectations, including practical details of how the child should be prepared for coming to school: what do they wear? Do they bring a water bottle? What are the arrangements for lunch?

But he said schools should make clear their approach to reading and special educational needs; what it did to make sure children were safe; what parents could do to keep their children safe; and who at the school parents should speak to about any issues.

Mr Boyd said the role of parents was often overlooked, with too much emphasis on what the school would do.

So as well as preparing their child for the practicalities of starting at school, he said they needed to prepare them “emotionally for this exciting new stage in their lives, but which is also an opportunity for them to continue with the learning they have already started – whether it’s being very good at throwing and catching, or baking or drawing.”

That continuity with what children experienced before – whether at pre-school or at home – is something he stresses.

“I believe there are many, many different ways of learning and sometimes I think we all forget that. Our primary schools are extremely proficient at making sure that learning takes place in many different ways, whether through talking or playing or practical activities or listening.”

He said it was also important for parents not only to talk to children, but to be attentive to signs they may give off.

A child starting school can be disruptive for family life, with the school day introducing a new routine, and it is important for children to be able to relax from what can be a tiring experience once they are home.

However, Mr Boyd said it was also important for parents to talk to them about what they had done at school that day. And if parents had any concerns, they should talk to the class teacher.

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