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It is now only just over a week to go until thousands of four-year-olds start their first day at school.
It can be a hugely daunting time both for the child and their parents but there are certain things mums and dads can do to prepare their children and themselves for the big day.
PTA UK (Parent Teacher Association) has launched its Be School Ready national campaign to help families with children starting school in September.
This includes some valuable tips
• Get hold of the school calendar There are so many school events including Christmas plays, Spring recitals, Summer Sports days and so on which will be set at the beginning of the academic year. With enough notice, you may be able to plot them out in your diary to make sure you can attend (or even help out!) Many of us have moved from paper to digital, but it doesn’t hurt to keep a list of key dates somewhere obvious, such as on the fridge door or pinned to the noticeboard. An extra reminder guards against the potential upset and embarrassment of a slip-up.
• Anticipate a flexible schedule Make sure you know the timetable for the start of term for Reception Year entrants. Most schools have a phased approach where the children may go in for half-days only in the first couple of weeks. Knowing the plan will help you to make any necessary arrangements and adjustments well in advance so that disruption is kept to a minimum and the school run becomes part of the daily routine.
• Get involved The school gates are a hub of social activity. Remember that you’re not alone. Plenty of other parents and guardians are on the same learning curve as you, whilst many will be experienced veterans only too willing to support the rookies. The gates are a great place to learn what’s going on in the school, and the best way to feel connected is to be involved. Get to know your school and attend events where you can. For example, school PTAs organise gatherings from fetes to quiz nights, dinner parties to wine tastings and cake sales to discos. Why not take part? Children are more enthusiastic about school life if they see their parents being part of it too.
• Socialise Find out if there are any plans over the summer to meet other families starting in Reception or arrange a gathering yourself. Playdates for your children with their future classmates are a good idea, but making friends early on is also important for you, especially if you need a hand with childcare at the last minute!
• Wrap around care options Your school may run a breakfast or after school club but if not, speak to other parents to find out if you can share lifts or childcare to help each other out.
• Get to know your child’s teacher By establishing a relationship and communicating with them regularly, you can work as a team to support your child’s learning. Remember, every child is different and understanding their progress and knowing how to support them will help your child achieve their potential. Use your child’s Contact Book to ask questions or raise issues on a day-to-day basis and make appointments with the teacher if a more in-depth discussion is necessary. Many schools encourage a good level of parent engagement and teachers are generally happy to arrange calls or meetings at a convenient time.
• Do your homework Get to know what the expectations of the school are when it comes to homework. This will help you to establish a routine and help create a positive approach to homework. Maybe you can help your child by creating a bespoke homework station at home, and making sure in advance it’s stocked with everything they’ll need to help them on that particular day.
• Go Online If you can’t always be around physically, get involved virtually. Social media is often a great way to stay in touch with other parents and keep on top of what’s going on in school. Most PTAs have a page on the school website, but the best way to keep up-to-the-minute and chat to other parents is often on their Facebook groups.
• Be organised Lay out school uniforms the night before and allow yourself enough time in the morning for the kids to have breakfast. Ensure they’ve tried on their new uniform and are used to it well in advance so there are no surprises on the big day. Every item should be labelled, but anticipate the need for spares. You want to establish a good routine from day one to ensure everything is as relaxed and stress-free as possible.
• There is more advice on #BeSchoolReady at PTA UK’s dedicated campaign page, or head over to www.pta.org.uk/beschoolready. You’ll find tips on helping your child to dress themselves, preparing healthy snacks and parent blogs.