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Getting ready to start school

Hannah Hunter Hannah Hunter | 14:19 UK time, Wednesday, 13 July 2011

My wildly sociable, soon to be five year-old is starting school in September. Far from having any worries about this momentous occasion, he is eagerly looking forward to spending all day at ‘big school’. When I mentioned that his sister and I would miss him, he replied “don’t worry mummy, I won’t miss you, I’ll be with my friends.”

I am pleased that he is so confident, and though I don’t think he really knows what’s in store, he’s had a fairly good preparation at pre-school and at home. Having taught KS1 children, I am well aware of the skills he will need to facilitate his first few weeks at school, and have tried to help him on the way to learning them.

classe @ Prod. Numerik - Fotolia.com

If your child hasn’t been to nursery or pre-school, the idea of sitting in a classroom with other children, following instructions from someone other than their usual carer, can seem alien and frightening to them. Many schools have taster days, or provide some other opportunity for your child to see their prospective classroom, and meet their teacher. Playing schools with your child is a good way of preparing them, as well as reading one of the many stories about first days at school – your local library is certain to have a selection.

Make your child aware who to talk to when they need something or are in any trouble – it may seem obvious, but let them know that the teacher or classroom assistant is there to help them. Be positive when you talk about school, even if your own experience was otherwise.

Aside from social graces, children also have basic physical skills that they will need. You would be surprised how many kids go to school without being able to dress or undress, fasten their shoes. It’s worth making sure your child knows how to go to the loo unaided, wash their hands by themselves, and tidy up after themselves. With these skills in place, they will be able to navigate the school day much more smoothly.

As a fairly disorganised sort, I am planning to practise the school routine a little while before we start, as well as involving my son in getting his clothes ready the night before. I think we’ll also try a ‘dry run’, to time how long it will actually take us to get myself and both kids ready and out of the house by 8.45.

There are lots of guides for parents of school age children, looking at both the child and parent's feelings, such as this one from Mumsnet. I particularly like the advice from a teacher, on settling your child into their new classroom: “As a teacher there's nothing worse than snivelling parents making fond farewells inside the classroom. Children settle in much better if parents send them in confidently, smiling, wishing them well... Then you can go and weep round the corner. I did!"

Hannah Hunter is a member of the BBC Parent Panel.

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