How are families feeling about their child starting school?

This article was last updated on 21 August 2020

Whilst some of the usual preparations are still taking place such as picking out uniforms and practising the school run, this year looks pretty different for families who have a child beginning their school life.

Parents and guardians have shared their family's feelings ahead of the big day.

Hannah

Hannah

Ethan is another young boy ready to start school in September. He also has Down’s Syndrome. Here, his mum Hannah explains the hard work he has been doing at home in lockdown…

Since lockdown I have been tasked with getting Ethan school-ready. We have been learning reading, writing, counting, drawing and signing, as well as getting daily exercise and much more through play. We have also been very lucky to receive speech therapy via video chat every two weeks. He has achieved so much during lockdown.

We talk through what he will be doing at school, using role-play, and have made his new teacher a one-page profile - including a picture of Ethan, so she can see what he enjoys and how to help him reach his full potential in mainstream education.

We have also been potty training him and teaching him to get changed and take his shoes on and off. Ethan has worked so hard at ‘Mummy’s school’ and we will always be so grateful to his little sister for giving him amazing social interaction, helping him, continuous laughter and beautiful cuddles during this weird time.

In all honesty, I have a mixture of fear and happiness about Ethan starting school as this is such a massive step in his future. However, he is clever, kind and hardworking and never gives up which makes me burst with pride. Down’s Syndrome doesn’t define my child - my child does this for himself. He will love school and achieve his full potential, but I will miss him so very much.

Denise and Alastair

Denise and Alastair

Denise and Alastair live in Hertfordshire with their nine-year-old son, and their four-year-old daughter. Alastair works and Denise is currently a stay-at-home mum who hopes to return to work once her daughter starts primary school in September.

Alastair

I am looking forward to my daughter starting school and feel it’s right for children to go back to school during the pandemic. It’s important to get back to normality and take precautions where possible. I trust the school, that they will stick to government guidelines and keep the children safe. In order to help my daughter be prepared for school, I have encouraged her creative development by doing lots of art and crafts. I have also read lots of books to develop her reading.

Denise

On the whole, I am comfortable with my daughter starting school during the pandemic. This may be because I live extremely close to the school and am very familiar with the grounds and premises. My daughter is going to the school my son already attends and she also attended nursery there, returning for four weeks just before the summer break. I already have a good rapport with some of the staff at the school and it doesn’t feel like we are entering unknown territory in the midst of uncertain times.

In terms of preparation I have been talking to my daughter about starting primary school for about a year. I think having my children at home during lockdown forced me to spend more time with them and be more aware of their educational abilities and needs. I have been helping my daughter learn the alphabet, phonics and how to write her full name.

I am concerned about the enforcement of social distancing as this is a new way of living and I worry about the long-term effects this may have on children. On the other hand I am aware small children struggle with social distancing and my daughter will be in contact with lots of children whose parents will have been in contact with others. However, it’s a situation I’m willing to walk through as I feel we need to move forward as a community and get on with our lives the best way we can.

Sukhi

Sukhi

Sukhi’s daughter Remi has been going to a nursery which is in the grounds of her new primary school, so she already feels like a part of the school community. Remi has additional needs due to a visual impairment.

This little girl could not be more excited about starting school and being a ‘big girl’. Her excitement has certainly rubbed off on me.

Remi’s big sister Ismae already attends the school and will be starting in Year 1 in September, and it’s wonderful seeing them both role playing ‘teachers’ at home and I can see that Remi feels a sense of pride knowing that she will be joining her big sissy soon at school.

As Remi’s mother, one of my biggest goals in life is to ensure my daughter can compete on a level playing field throughout her educational journey. It’s the new school environment that initially made me feel a tad nervous for her and myself and I was looking forward to Remi visiting her new classroom before the summer holidays and for her teacher to visit us at home, but, of course, due to Covid-19 this will not be possible.

However, with all that is going on in the world right now and all the hardship and heartache that people have had to endure, these things don’t seem a big deal and certainly not something that will get in the way of a sparky little girl and her new big school adventure.

In fact, lockdown has allowed us to experience some of this in a virtual way, which to my generation is something we’ve had to adjust to, but to Remi’s generation is quite the norm. For example, the school produced a fantastic teacher reveal where Remi got to find out who her new teacher will be, she got to watch a short video where her teacher explained what happens in school and she got a booklet with lots of pictures to look at. I’ve also met with the school’s SENCO who has reassured me that the school will do all they can to ensure Remi is able to fulfill her potential during her time there.

I am someone who has always valued education and the role of our teachers, but I have never been so grateful and thankful for our education and teachers as I have in 2020.

Victoria and Lawrence

Victoria and Lawrence

Victoria and her husband, Lawrence, are a family of four and their eldest son Zach is due to start school this September, with his little brother Leo hot on his heels next year.

Thankfully we were able to work from home during lockdown; after a few chaotic weeks the boys got used to the new stay-at-home routine but we’re now all looking forward to Zach starting school. He is super excited to start, he tries his uniform on at any given opportunity and loves watching the video clips that his teachers have sent to his class, in the absence of being able to meet him during lockdown.

To make sure we’re all comfortable and prepared with the Covid-related school changes, we’ve kept up to date on all school correspondence and risk assessments, and as a result we have full confidence that the school and teachers will do a fantastic job to ensure that it is as safe as possible. We’ve made a conscious effort to keep Zach involved in school activities - doing practice walks to the school, looking through the school prospectus and welcome pack together several times, talking about all the after-school clubs that he’ll be able to join, and generally encouraging him to tell everyone all about it! The school has been fantastic too, sending out regular communications, photos, organising a video call between Zach and his teacher, and sending a letter from his Year 6 buddy who will help him settle in. I think our little ones are more resilient and open to change than us adults, so while it’s a strange time to be starting school, the excitement for the next chapter far outweighs any worry.

Lorenza

Lorenza

When Lorenza’s daughter Eliza was a few months old, she was diagnosed with CHARGE syndrome - a rare condition which affects her severely in many ways, including her breathing, eating and hearing (she is deaf and communicates using BSL/SSE). As a result she has been shielding as an at-risk individual.

Before the outbreak of Covid-19 in the UK, Lorenza had planned for Eliza to start attending mainstream school in September. Now these plans are less certain…

Firstly, Eliza’s chosen school and support team have been amazing in getting organised and putting support in place for Eliza to attend mainstream school. However, her needs mean that she requires one-to-one support and finding a support worker who has the correct training to assist Eliza has been challenging. We found someone who we had intended to train prior to Eliza starting in September, but have been unable to complete any training due to lockdown. It seems unlikely that we will have the time required to train her ready for September.

Pre–Covid we had so many worries about Eliza starting school. Would she fit in? Would she make friends? Would she be left behind? Will school be able to provide the right support for her? We are now in a state of limbo. Will Eliza still be able to start school alongside her peers? Is it safe? Are we putting Eliza at risk? If we hold her back, how will this affect her development? Will her peers accept her if she starts later? It seems unfair she is always the one left behind. Pre-Covid we were anxious but excited about Eliza starting school; now the idea fills us with fear.

Ricki

Ricki is grandmother to young Seb, who is due to start school in September. She has been looking after him for several months during lockdown, as his mum, Jordie, is at-risk and has been forced to shield.

Seb is a bit of a miracle, as his mum had acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia when she was four, and relapsed when she was eight, so we weren't expecting her to be able to have kids - but she likes proving us wrong! This means that Jordie has been shielding, and has had very little contact with Seb for much of the past few weeks.

He has been unphased by all these changes in his life and is a happy little soul.

With Jordie's circumstances, we are rather worried about Seb being back in a busy environment. He has attended nursery for two full days-a-week since he was two-years-old, but we have kept him home since they reopened, so he can spend time with his mum at less risk.

As Seb has been attending nursery since he was small, we are not too worried about him starting school from a social point of view, and academically he is quite bright, so no worries there either. Our anxiety is all Covid based.

I think it helps that Seb is really ready for school. He needs that in his life, so that helps weigh against the fears.

For further information check out the rest of Starting Primary School which has lots of ways to help prepare children for different aspects of school life – both practically and emotionally.

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