Prepare your new school starter for education during a turbulent 2020

Starting school can be both exciting and daunting for children and their parents, but with Covid-19 restrictions effecting the usual settling in activities, there is advice and reassurance available for parents hoping to put their little one at ease and help with the transition.

Friday, 17th July 2020, 4:51 pm
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Home visits from their teachers, trips to the school and settling-in sessions with a chance to meet their new classmates have most likely been cancelled or altered this year due to social distancing, so parents of four-year-olds due to start school in September may be concerned their child will struggle with the transition.

Zuzu Jordan, a parent herself and a primary school teacher in Sussex for 16 years, has some helpful advice for parents looking to help their children make the move to their new Reception class smoothly. During lockdown, Zuzu created a Facebook page for home schooling parents and it includes a wealth of advice for teaching children during the pandemic and looking after your child’s mental health.

Zuzu said: “For the little ones who have never been to school it is all about transition and there is bound to be some anxiety there.

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“I think parents could maybe put together a transition book - take a picture of your child’s new school or download one from the website, you will probably be able to find a photo of their teacher, the head teacher and lunchtime assistants on the website too and put it all together in a little book. This will really help to familiarise your child with those faces they will meet when they start school and hopefully put them at ease.

“Talk and show them their uniform and just try to make it all familiar.”

Zuzu says there are many books to help with anxiety and recommends Too Many Pants by Ruth Drury, who has contributed to Zuzu’s Facebook advice page.

Zuzu has another tip for parents to help children deal with the worries they may have.

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She said: “Children need to talk about their worries otherwise they just carry them around but often, especially for very little children, a touch and feel approach can work best.

“You can buy, or make your own, worry bag. It is a bag that the children put their worries in and then the worry monster can gobble them up or the parent can carry the worries around instead of the child.

“Also, try to encourage your child to take something in with them to show their teacher as a talking point. It could be any little thing they have done. Any arts, crafts or stories you may have read to them.”

Many parents are also struggling to explain coronavirus to their young children or are having concerns about their child starting school while the virus and social distancing measures are still present.

Zuzu said: “The Department for Education is constantly reviewing the processes in schools so come September, over the summer period, they will have worked hard and they will know what works and what doesn’t work. It should all be more efficient.

“They have a duty of care, so they are also looking more closely at mental health issues for all children returning to school after an extended period at home during lockdown - that is not just new starters but all children who have been at home during the pandemic.”

To find out more about Zuzu Jordan’s Facebook page, which has been recognised by the Department of Education, visit www.facebook.com/edumateuk.

Schools across East Sussex are getting ready to welcome the children back in September but children may have to get used to a different way of learning with more regular hand washing, increased hygiene and some social distancing measures to keep them safe.

Schools are doing everything they can to help the new starters to relax and enjoy their first steps into education.

Lizy Read from Oakwood School in Eastbourne, said while the usual teddy bears picnic has been cancelled, children due to start school in September had been able to meet their teachers in classrooms on a one-to-one basis. The school has also created videos from teachers which have been popular with parents and helped children get to know their teachers.

She added: “We have provided the children with a new prospectus which has pictures of all the staff, the school in general and the uniform they will be wearing.

“They also have information about what they can expect when they start that learning experience, such as phonics.”

The staff at Oakwood understand that starting school is not just an anxious time for children but parents too.

Lizy added: “The information is as much for the parents as it is the children.”

Paula Symonds, early years phase leader at Grovelands School in Hailsham, says like many schools the website and social media have been vital for keeping parents and children informed and well-connected.

Mrs Symonds said: “It is all about building and maintaining great relationships with our children and parents too.

“We have done doorstep visits to the children who will be starting reception in September and given them their packs and some learning material. The packs included their name card, numbers and letter sounds.

“It was a really nice way to show the child that we are not a stranger and to introduce ourselves.

“We have also introduced them to a book called Owl Babies, which explores some of the emotions they may be going through.

“This is something they can explore at home and we will be looking at the book when they start in September – so again, it is about that familiarity.”

Laylee Pocock, head of Glenleigh Park Primary Academy in Bexhill said many of the usual induction events had been rescheduled for early September and would allow the children to visit the school with their parents while keeping safe by observing social distancing guidelines.

Ms Pocock said: “For our very, very new children - our reception children - we have created a video which shows them the school and their classrooms. It has been very well received by parents and is on our website and Facebook page.

“We have had a lot of correspondence with parents and there is a Q&A if parents have got any questions.

“For our other pupils, the thing I think is really important is recognising all that lovely work the children have been doing while they have been homeschooling for the past few months.

“We have really encouraged them to send it in and we have made a celebration display of that work to welcome them back.”