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Starting a New School or Nursery

As the new academic year approaches lots of young children will be getting ready to start nursery settings or full-time school. For parents, the ‘newness’ of this next stage can be daunting. I remember my own daughter’s first day. I was handing over my ‘baby’, my most precious thing, to someone else. She had to be prised off me by a member of staff who suggested she would settle more quickly if I left, which I did with tears streaming down my face. I should not have worried; I was trusting experienced people who could see it from ‘the other side’. My daughter is now in her twenties and my career in Early Years has shown me how small children can hugely benefit from some preparation for this exciting new stage of their life.

At home, their confidence and independence need to be nurtured. Secure attachments with key family and friends are crucial in developing self-assurance. It is also important to encourage them to have a go, persevere and solve problems. Letting your child know that you believe they can do a task will give them the confidence to try it and then try it again if necessary.

Settling in visits at their new school or nursery are essential. Most settings will run parent and child sessions of about an hour when your child can spend time in the room they will be in, with the staff and other children they will be with – try to attend as many of these as you can. You might find that your child stays close to you but as their confidence grows, as they understand the expectations, know where toys are and feel cared for, their adventurous side emerges.

Close to your child’s start date keyworkers will usually make a home visit and this is advantageous too. Your child will be on his or her own ‘turf’ and they can show off what they like to play with and feel relaxed and more ‘in control’ (after they have got over the shock that their teachers are allowed out of school, surely they live there all the time?). Having photos of teachers, classrooms, toilets, the cloakroom and knowing the routine all help to familiarise your child, as do play dates before the start of term. If you are fortunate enough to be joining a school with a strong parent association they will most probably arrange events to ease the transition.

When that first day arrives, get up a little earlier and ensure a leisurely, calm start. Follow the routine you have talked to your child about and, perhaps most importantly, try to suppress your anxiety. When you arrive at the setting, please do not prolong the goodbye to your child – the quicker the better. Be reassured that if your child does not settle, the teachers will let you know so strategies can be deployed. Finally, please don’t run back to say a final goodbye or have a peek, you will be spotted! Wobbles are inevitable, whether it is in the first few days or after a couple of weeks when a child is a little tired, coupled with the dawning realisation that this is for the next 16 years! The key is a good line of communication between home and the setting and before you know it, being ‘new’ is a thing of the past!

Sam Selkirk
Head of Lower School

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