Holidays are all very well, but before long, it’s time to go back to school. Or for first-timers – time to start a new school!
Crazy as it may seem, it’s best to plan for the new term from the very start of the holidays – especially if your child has homework to do over that time. Planning and preparation are key, and will help to alleviate any last minute stress.
Suggest that they tackle homework assignments and projects well in advance, and explain the importance of not leaving work until the last minute.
Help them to schedule any homework or revision over the week/s they are off, or encourage them to use some time to catch up in areas of weakness, or get ahead in some subjects. Education Quizzes can help!
Help to keep your child’s mind active during the school holiday to prepare them for schoolwork again. Family days out to libraries, museums or art galleries are enjoyable and educational.
However, do make sure they get a proper break!
Encourage playdates in the holidays so your child can spend time with the children they’ll be at school with. It will help them if they have already formed some friendships.
Younger children first starting school may have spent time at nursery away from you, which will help to ease them into the process.
Talk to your child about how to socialise, if they struggle, explaining about sharing and being kind and polite to other children.
Your child is growing, so review the state of their shoes and uniform. For new schools, make sure you check the prospectus or uniform list from the school.
Uniform shopping can be a real chore. It’s often the last thing a child wants to do, and shops grow busier as the new term approaches. So shop for necessities well in advance. Unless your child is growing so fast that six weeks makes a big difference to the size they need!
Ensure that your child has everything they need, like stationery, text books and maths equipment. They will probably need access to a computer, printer and Internet, too.
There are some tips on budgeting and getting prepared from Action for Children.
Ensure they get plenty of sleep and have healthy meals that will give them energy and help concentration.
A week or so before school starts, try to establish a routine of your child going to bed early (with no distractions such as phones, TV or video games) and waking up early every morning, so that it is not so much of a shock to the system!
If your child is young and has been used to having a nap, wean them off this gradually, to prepare them for the longer school day.
Ask your child what they’re looking forward to, or are excited about, such as seeing friends, new subjects, new sports activities or making new friends.
Encourage them to visualise a great first day and talk you step by step through a positive, happy day at school.
Go on the school website, or look at the prospectus, and encourage them to feel enthusiastic about starting school.
Share your own fond memories of school, or look at old photos, for a reassuring, sharing experience.
If anything is making them feel anxious about starting school, talk to your child and get them to explain to you so you can talk it through. Encourage them to talk to you if they have any worries. Over 16,000 children don’t go to school due to bullying (NSPCC), so nip any concerns in the bud through reassurance, information and support.
Discuss potential solutions for any problems, so they feel prepared.
Even if you didn’t have a good experience of school yourself, be positive and don’t convey your own apprehensions.
Maintain communication with their teachers if there are any problems.
Have a look at the PACEY factsheet (www.pacey.org.uk/Pacey/media/Website-files/Parent's essentials/PFS05-Transitions-and-settling-in.pdf) for guidance to help you and your youngsters or pre-schoolers to be school-ready.
Do a ‘dress rehearsal’: to practise getting up, washed, breakfasted and changed into school uniform.
Do a trial run of the journey to help with timing.
It’s a good idea to set the clocks a few minutes forward, so you are always ahead of schedule.
Plan a bathroom rota for the family so that everyone gets equal time and there won’t be a rush every morning.
Establish regular homework and dinner times, as the normal routine.
Help your child to take responsibility and learn that organisation and planning is essential. Encourage your child to pack their own bag the night before and to set out their clothes.
Print out a copy of your child’s school timetable if you have it, so they know which books to take, and when they'll need their PE kit.
Make a note on the calendar of important events.
If the school doesn’t give them a homework diary, provide one.
Ensure they have a quiet, organised space for completing homework with dictionary, paper, storage and other materials.
Planning for emergencies, ensure that your child has some change or a GoHenry children’s cashcard in case they need money to catch a bus or make a phone call.
It might be useful for an older child to have a mobile phone – if the school allows this.
Give them a list of contact numbers and discuss what they should do in an emergency situation.
Support your child and reassure them. It’s almost inevitable that they will feel apprehensive, especially if it’s a new school, new teacher or new work to do. More tips on back to school.
Explain that you expect them to try their best. They don’t need to be the best – just do the best they can.
Encourage them to be open and to come to you if they are troubled. Or if they’re not – just to tell you about their day!