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Scrolls, hats and black, satin gowns were the attire of the day for tens of thousands of nursery children this summer, with the tear-stained faces of parents commonplace as they nudge each other out of the way for a snap of their child’s graduation.
Many children as young as three are now dressing for the part to attend an end-of-term ceremony at their pre-school to mark the transition to primary school.
And business it seems is booming for those enterprising enough, with one firm, Marston Robing, selling mini graduation caps and gowns to over 100,000 British nurseries. Online site Nursery Leavers’ Books sells yearbooks as ‘a personal, thoughtful’ graduation gift for children and parents to treasure.
Pre-school children at Busy Bees nursery in Portishead were among those waving goodbye to their nursery days in style as they start primary school from September.
Nursery staff had certificates ready for each child, which had been personalised with what the youngsters will be missed most for. As part of the graduation ceremony, the children treated their parents to songs and poems they had rehearsed.
Staff at Better, Sutton Day Nursery in Sutton even invited US celebrities Mickey and Minnie Mouse to drop in for their graduation ceremony on Saturday 29 July with gifts and a speech from a parent representative.
Nursery manager Kelly Walton said: “One of our parents gave a speech about how happy her son had been since he joined the nursery. Graduations are very common. It was a great day.” While many embrace pre-school graduations, others have dismissed it as a superficial US import Brits could do without. Some liken pre-school graduations to rewarding children for academic excellence before they have embarked on any real academic study. But many parents as well as nurseries have embraced the new practice.
One mum, posting on a forum on Mumsnet said: ‘A full gown and cap and professional photos is maybe taking it a bit too far but I really can't believe this is a subject that actually bothers people enough to start a thread about - what is the actual problem - no one actually thinks they have graduation, my four-year-old won't even remember and I know the difference between leaving pre-school and graduating so all's ok for me really.’
Another mum stated her nursery had children wear ‘brightly coloured gowns, made their own hats and sang some lovely songs'.
'There were given a certificate to commemorate their lovely time at pre-school. It was not a pretend graduation or anything but was actually lovely. The parents, child and staff cried lots.’
Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), said: “Moving on from nursery is a big step for children, as it can be a big part of their childhood and represents the first milestone in their educational journey.
“Nursery graduation ceremonies are becoming very popular, and while they do not have to cost a lot of money or have the traditional cap and gown approach, making an event of the move gives friends and family the chance to celebrate children’s individual progress.
“There is a whole range of other ways to prepare children for school too. For example, nurseries can introduce the ideas of a routine and wearing a uniform, and can work with schools to introduce new teachers to the children. Practitioners can also emotionally support children by discussing any questions or worries they have.”