Top tips on preparing your child for starting in Reception from Emma Williams, a mother of four with a child starting in reception and Executive Director, PTA UK
Whether it’s your first child starting school in September or you’ve done it before, I would highly recommend taking a moment beforehand to try and understand what September is going to look like for you and your family.
As a family with both parents working full time, it’s the logistical things that preoccupy us the most and cause the most stress and therefore have a knock-on effect on our family life. So trying to plan for these and to take a moment to recognise that things are changing and that it will take a while to settle into a new routine really helps.
There is a lot of advice around on how to prepare your child, both mentally and physically for the changes afoot, and many schools organise taster sessions, welcome meetings, visits to pre-school settings and the like, (www.pta.org.uk/beschoolready) but as well as all that, it’s important to think about the impact on the whole family. Here’s our family to do list:
- Get exact dates and timings from the school for how reception class will run in September (it’s often a phased in approach) and then match that with the rest of the family’s diary.
- Work out the childcare options for those first few weeks and then try and work out what the ongoing routine will look like – this is important because even if you are going to take 2 weeks off to ease your child into school, you need to ‘ease in’ to the new routine, whether that be wraparound childcare, a mix and match approach of care or something else.
- Talk to your employer (or yourself if you are self-employed!) about being flexible in those first few weeks. Best laid plans etc. Getting into a new family routine can be planned for, but you don’t know that it will work until you actually do it, so be prepared to change or adapt your plans if they are not quite working out as well as you’d hope.
- Get as much information from the school as possible in terms of events and things you need to attend in the first year and then be prepared not to be able to do them all. There simply isn’t enough give in my work diary to participate in all the events and meetings that my children’s’ schools put on, so we have to be selective and try to work out the ones that will have the most positive impact on our children and then not beat ourselves up about it.
- It is important however that you try and get to know the school and your child’s teacher and find a way that you can get involved with the school that works for you. (PTA UK have lots of information at www.pta.org.uk/Parents/Get-involved-at-school ) Don’t necessarily jump into doing something, but have some conversations, find out the options and keep this point on your to-do list until you have a solution – it’s so easy for a term to go by without interacting with the school even if you have the best intentions.
- Understand the schools policy on home learning and have a think about how this sits with you. Every school is different in terms of the ‘homework’ it sets. We are all ambitious for our children, but the home learning that your child’s school sets is not necessarily going to be the same as when you were at school and that doesn’t mean it isn’t good. Research shows that the most important thing that we can do for our children is to participate in their learning – read with them, do projects together, keep things exciting and carve out the time to do this properly. Have a think about when the ‘homework’ will be done to meet the expectations of the school and plan it in to your new routine so that it doesn’t become rushed and stressful.
- Finally, remember to factor in some down time, both for you and your family. Things are going to be a bit tense / rocky / challenging for a while and then they will settle down. At some point your family will find a rhythm that works, you will be able to breathe for a while and feel like you’ve ‘cracked it’! …………and then the routine will have to change again!23PTA UK has launched its Be School Ready national campaign to help families with children starting school in September. The Be School Ready magazines, produced by PTA UK, which is also celebrating its 60th year, have been distributed providing both practical and emotional support for parents, carers and children so they can start school life with confidence.