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With over 600,000 four-year-olds starting school for the first time next week, new research from the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY) has revealed that most parents feel anxious about their child starting school.
The survey of over 2,000 adults identified that almost three quarters of parents were anxious about their child starting school for the first time in September, with close to half of parents more anxious than their child.
Chief executive of PACEY, Liz Bayram said: “We know that the first day of school can be a real cause of anxiety for many parents. Childcare professionals play a key role in supporting children and their families to prepare for this important transition in life, and it is clear from the research that this vital role is recognised by families.
“Our Starting School Together project is already demonstrating that strengthening the partnerships between parents, childcare professionals and teachers can really help ensure children make a positive start to school, and can also help alleviate the anxiety felt by parents.”
The study revealed that a third of surveyed parents were most concerned about their child making friends, followed by settling into a routine, with just over a fifth of parents worried about their child being a victim of bullying.
The report also highlighted that one in ten parents aged 18 to 24 are worried about forthcoming academic pressures on their child.
Ms Bayram continued: "With the recent report from the Children’s Society showing that England’s school children are among the unhappiest in the world, PACEY is renewing its call for a focus on emotional wellbeing in Government education policy. This is because children starting school this year will be tested on their maths and literacy skills at a time when helping children to settle in and make friends should be the priority for teachers.”
PACEY, the professional body for over 30,000 childminders, nannies and nursery workers across England and Wales, has recognised these concerns and has created a set of resources to help parents equip their children with the key social, emotional and physical skills needed to thrive at school.
The resources, based on PACEY’s existing training and Continuous Professional Development (CPD) support for childcare professionals, include a ‘Preparing for Starting School’ guide, factsheets, videos and activity sheets.
Similarly, nearly three quarters of the parents surveyed believed that their childcare or early education provider has played a significant role in preparing their child for school. A fifth thought they played a ‘very significant’ role.
PACEY is working on a new project this year that helps improve children’s transition into school by developing partnerships between childcare providers, families and schools. Starting School Together, funded by a grant from the Department for Education, is running across four pilot sites in Cambridgeshire and North Yorkshire and focuses on children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Families are being supported with toys and resources, face-to-face meetings and online contact to help their children prepare to start school.
PACEY aims to roll out Starting School Together as a model of best practice to encourage greater partnership between early year’s settings and schools across England.
Hannah Cockell, a mother from Skipton, North Yorkshire, said: “I’ve been so worried about my daughter starting school. These resources have been so helpful for me to prepare myself for the transition and to help her journey. I have found the regular contact with the school, and through other parents really helpful. My daughter has been really excited to use the toys and resources with me - it’s made a real difference in helping us all look forward to the first day of school.”
Ms Bayram added: “We also hope, thanks to our partnership with Netmums, that more parents will be aware of the resources PACEY provides to help support parents and children, not just in their child’s pre-school years but in the weeks and months that follow them starting school.”