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Back to school: Are you ready?

Pre-school and nursery:

"They can't possibly be old enough to be going to nursery" the thought that will cross your mind several times before their first sessions. The following points are suggestions, every child learns at their own pace but here are five recommended skills for children ages 3 – 4:

  1. They should be “toilet-trained”, i.e. able to go to the lavatory by themselves, wipe themselves and wash their hands afterwards.
  2. Be able to get their coat on and off as well as change for sports activities (if required).
  3. Recognise their own name and pay attention when being spoken to.
  4. Be familiar with the alphabet and counting up to 20.
  5. Being able to listen to instructions as well as being able to sit still and be quiet when asked. ('calm time' such as jigsaws or colouring can help with this)

First day at school:

Even if your child has attended nursery school the move to primary is for many the 'official' start of school. There will be lots to think about as well as lots of excitement and even a few nerves (for both parents and children!)

  1. Books, books and more books! No not notebooks, we'll get onto stationery later, we mean books to read. There are a whole range of books available the discuss starting school, they're great for reassuring your child about nerves, making friends and any other concerns they may have. Try reading a couple of these in the months prior to their first day.

  2. Visit the school beforehand: If your child hasn't been to the school's nursery and doesn't have siblings at the school, make sure he or she sees the school before starting so they know what to expect. Many schools do set up 'taster' sessions for the new students at the end of the summer term, don't worry there won't be any actual lessons, it's just a little look-and-play in the classroom, so your child doesn't have to walk into an unknown environment on their very first day. Plus you can get a feel for where they'll be spending their weekdays!

  3. Practice makes perfect! Have a dry run of the walk to school, get them out of bed at the time they'll need to be up on school days or try out a few learning activities at home. Rehearsing certain aspects of their school day will make the whole business of a full school day less daunting!

  4. Stock up on stationery: There is nothing more exciting as a kid than choosing your pencil case and practising your writing with your new pens. If you're unsure about what is necessary (even if the little one is insisting on writing in pink all year) then check with the school, they'll be able to tell you what they provide and what they don't.

  5. Life skills and classroom rules: The classroom will be a new environment for your child to adapt to and you can help with this by introducing them to certain skills early on such as the ability to sit still and listen, asking to go to the toilet, waiting for other people to finish speaking and sharing. As well as being able to put their coat on, change for PE, eat independently and so on.

  6. Feed their brains: Give them a helping hand by starting some independent learning at home such as basic counting, addition and multiplication games or try to get them to sit and read at least once a day, although they won't be getting any real homework at this age it is good practise to get them sat for 15 – 30 mins each evening doing something like reading or writing so it becomes habit and not chore.

Secondary School:

Seeing your child head off to secondary school is no less heart wrenching than waving them off on their first day of primary. Although this time they may not be clinging to you at the school gates and you've probably spent much more on 'cool' stationary and the 'must have' school bag! There is still prep to be done though:

  1. Practise the journey: This is especially useful if your child will be travelling to school alone for the first time (either walking or by public transport. do at least one trial journey, going over alternative routes/means of transport home in case their usual way is disrupted (as can happen on public transport in many cities).

  2. What not to wear: Make sure you check with the school about uniform regulations as your child may suggest the rules are more flexible than they actually are. Leave buying a coat until October not only will your child be able to see what's 'cool' amongst their friends but you'll find there will be a better range in the shops around this time. It is also worth buying two of everything when it comes to sportswear, these are always the items that get lost first, and we can guarantee your son/daughter will only realise at 8am the morning of PE day.

  3. Make sure your son/daughter can organise themselves independently: Start by getting them to take control of packing their school bag and checking they have all the right equipment, you can also allow them to manage their homework in the evening. Giving them this responsibility will help them to manage workloads in school as well as teach them vital life skills.

  4. As with their first day at primary make sure to attend any taster sessions provided by the school or any parent meetings, you might think you know what's what but at the very least it can be a good way to just get a feel for the school and meet some other kids/parents.

  5. Small steps: They may want to spend their whole summer in one endless circle of television, water fights and ice cream but try to get them to read a few books over the summer and approach the subject of the types of lessons they'll be doing, this will at the very least make sure the start of school doesn't hit them too hard. Or try easing them back into lessons with a few trips to museums etc in the last weeks of the holidays, taking time to talk to them about what you're looking at. 
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