School Life

Starting School

Starting school is a big milestone for children. They are probably ready for this next step and will enjoy the learning and the new experiences being at school will offer. 

It is a proud and exciting time seeing your child become more independent but it can bring mixed feelings too. Most children make the move to reception class smoothly and enjoy the beginning of their school days. You may feel more worried if:

  • They have struggled to be away from you before.
  • You worry that they are still dependent on you and won’t ‘manage’ on their own.
  • Your own school days were hard, making you worry that your child won’t have a good experience.

Starting School Quiz

Starting school is a big event for children - even if they have been used to going to nursery or preschool. It is never too late or too early to start getting ready. You could work through the quiz as a family so you all have the same thoughts and ideas.

Take the quiz!

Dive Deeper

Separation Anxiety

Starting school can feel like a big milestone for your child and for you. Even if your child has been used to nursery or preschool, some children will find it hard to make the change.

Some children may find separating from parents or carers particularly hard. It is difficult to cope when your child is upset. For most children the upset passes quite quickly once they become familiar with the people and routines of their new school.

  • Try not to show any worries you might have about them starting school. They will take their lead from you. Remember children like to listen in to adult conversations too!
  • Talk to your child about the change to come. Story books about starting school can help.
  • Talk through the new routines of a school day.
  • Make sure they know who will pick them up and where from. Be there a few minutes early especially to begin with. This will help build your child’s confidence that you will return.

Things You Can Do

  • Talk to your child about things that will be the same, this could be friends who they already know going to the same school or siblings that already attend.
  • Keep to your routines and boundaries. This helps children feel secure at times of change.
  • Have a small pocket sized toy that you kiss and put in your child’s pocket or book bag each morning. Something that connects them with you can help in wobbly moments.
  • Let the school team know if your child struggles. They will help your child and can be around to support you both at drop off time. They will have seen this before and be able to suggest ways to help.
  • Find some special wind down time with your child after school. Let your child talk to you about how they feel. Give them a lot of praise for getting through something difficult.
  • Practice some relaxation techniques together.
  • Make sure you get support for yourself from family and friends.

Getting Organised

Help keep any starting school stress low by planning ahead. What will you need to do to get yourself and your child ready for the new school day routine? Talking about it and practicing will help you and your child feel more ready.

Home routines like regular bedtimes and getting up times can make a difference to how you and your child start the day.

Starting school is tiring and a good night sleep can help your child’s mood and make them more able to concentrate and enjoy school life.

Morning Routines

It helps everyone if the mornings are not a rush. Allow extra time to get yourself and everyone ready for the school run. It can be less stressful to get up earlier so everyone has time to get washed dressed and fed before you set off for school. Being late for school is worrying for children and does not get their learning time off to a good start. For this reason schools record late arrivals and will want to talk to you if being late is a regular problem.

  • Do as much as you can to get ready the night before. It will help you very much if you have uniforms, book bags and PE kit ready.
  • The journey to and from school is often a time when you and your child can concentrate on each other and have a chat. It is great if you can walk - being active is a good way to start the day. If you have to take the bus or the car it can still be a special time for you both.  Allow the time to make the most of it.
  • Practice the journey to school on the build up to the first day so you know exactly where to go and how long it takes. Remember it may take little legs longer when you walk.
  • Get a calendar, diary or set reminders on your phone for school events, appointments and holidays. As well as the extra things your child needs on different school days.

After School Routines

Your child is unlikely to have ‘homework’ when they first start school but they may bring home picture or reading books for you to share together. It is good to get in a habit of doing this together.

  • Make it a ‘screen free’ time without TV or phones
  • Concentrate on each other
  • Give the opportunity to talk about the day.

If your child is finds ‘homework’ stressful or upsetting ask their teacher for advice. Try not to get into a battle.

Find out more about routines

Your Own Feelings

This may be the first time that one of your children has started school or maybe you have been here before. When your child starts school it can make you wonder where the time has gone! You may feel worried about how you will cope with the change:

  • Talk to friends and family who have been in the same position. Ask them how they felt and how they coped.
  • Think about how you will fit in some special time with your child around their school day and in holiday time.
  • Avoid talking about any worries or sad feelings you might have in front of your child – try and keep positive in front of them.

This can be a time when you might think about what you want for the future. Maybe you will have more free time now? You might look into work, education, exercise or new hobbies – or you might just enjoy the time to yourself. Families benefit when parents and carers look after their own needs too.

Supporting Your Child

It can help you feel more in control if you focus on what you can do to help your child. You can;

  • Help them practice the skills they will need at school.
  • Plan any changes that need to happen to your day to day routines so you can practice them like earlier getting up and bed times.
  • Give your child the chance to talk about school – stories about starting school can be a good way to start the conversation. There are great books at your local library.

Schools are good at helping children settle into school and will want to find out more about your child’s interests and what they may need extra support with. You will be given the chance to meet teachers and spend time at school before the big day.

Schools know the importance of the link between home and school. Find out how they will keep you up to date on your child’s progress. Share any worries you have straight away - the school team are there to help you and your child.

First Few Days & Weeks

On that first day at school you may have lots of emotions – try and be upbeat and positive for your child. Have friends or family ‘on call’ in case you need a listening ear after drop off.

You will be surprised how quickly school becomes the new normal for you and your child. You will see your child grow in confidence and thrive at school with your love and support.

It can take time to settle into new places and new routines. Speak to school for support if you or your child is struggling.

Out of School & After School Care

Lots of schools run breakfast and after school clubs that children can attend. If your child's school doesn't you may need to rethink your childcare arrangements to fit in with school. Start organising this in plenty of time to make sure you have the care you need. Make sure you and your child know how this will work. Remember school holiday care will need planning too.

Talk to your employer before school starts - they may be able to support you to do the school drop off and/or pick up especially for the first few days.

If the person taking or collecting your child from school has to change, let your child (and the school) know as soon as you can so they are prepared.

Find out more about childcare options

Helpful Videos

Take a look at these 5 short videos. They have lots of fun activities and ideas you can try with your child, to help them prepare for starting school.

Who Can Help?

Your child’s school will be sensitive to the big change are there to help all pupils. They will have a plan to support all pupils to make the move. There will be;

  • Detailed handovers between childcare settings and schools about individual children.
  • Information packs about what your child needs.
  • Visits to the new school for you and your child.

If you are worried give the school a call to talk about how they can help your child.

If supporting your child to get the things they need for school – like uniform – is a big money worry for your family you can talk to your child’s school for advice or you can contact your local Council’s Early Help Teams.

You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

If you are 11-19 you can text ChatHealth on 07480 635060 for confidential advice from one of our team.

For 11–25 year olds Kooth is a free, confidential and safe way to receive online counselling, advice and emotional well-being support.

To speak to other Norfolk parents and carers, you can join our online community forum below.

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