Royal Grammar School

Newcastle

First day at school

First day at school

With the new school year upon us, I thought it would be a good opportunity to reflect on the challenge faced by students and their families when starting a new school.

The first day at a new school is one of those milestones that parents never forget. It is an important moment of transition to a new environment where challenges, successes and disappointments all lie ahead.

Starting a new school at any age is a big moment and a “big deal” for all children, however nonchalant they appear to be on the outside. There are no handbooks for parents to navigate you through these tricky times…

- How hands off should you be? 

- Do they need to make friends on the first day? 

- If they say it was “OK” do they mean it really was OK?

- How do you manage your anxiety as you let them travel to school on their own for possibly the first time? 
 
- How will you know what is really going on from the other parents without that ten-minute chat at the school gate each day?
 
Families will approach the start of term in different ways and certainly each child will be preparing themselves in their own fashion. The key thing though is that there is some preparation and management. This means different things at different ages but, essentially, it is about preparing for the change, working through the change and then consolidating the transition in the weeks afterwards. 
 
So, how can you get it right for your child? Well, you know your child best and the strategies will vary, but I would suggest that you try a three stage approach: 
 
Prepare  

Use the time buying school uniform and equipment as a chance to discuss what might happen in the first few days. How might the equipment be used? When will PE or swimming be? And how to remember to bring the kit home for washing. Emphasise that the settling process may take time and that no-one will be making snap judgements based on the first day. If your child attended induction sessions talk about those, what they liked about them and anything about them which is now worrying them (a common worry is getting lost!). Encourage your child to contact anyone they swapped details with last term; it may be very reassuring to have agreed to meet someone on the first day or for example at pre-season training. 

Work with the change  

Try to make the start of the new school year as easy as possible. If a new pencil case would help the feeling of a new start, then it’s probably worth it. If there are going to be changes to family routines then talk together about how things may work e.g. when homework will be completed. Make sure you have a copy of timetables, after school clubs etc. so that you are in the know. Remember the transition may be quick and seemingly straightforward but, equally, you may still be helping your child to find their feet a month later. 

Remember that even though your child seems to be reaching another milestone and growing up, for some too quickly, they are still the same child and only two months older than the last time you put them in school uniform.  If you feel you want to encourage more independence or if they are pushing for autonomy take your “foot off the pedal slowly” and see how things go.  There will be a lot of new things they will be digesting at school and the familiarity of home will be a huge help.

Consolidate  

Give your child time to settle in. Bombarding them with questions after the first day may not give you the answers you want. Wait until the weekend when there is more time to discuss things. For example, when tackling the first pieces of homework or looking at the timetable for the following week, organising games kit or remembering an instrumental lesson. Remembering the names of teachers or other students that your child mentions and asking about them a few days later will also help. Younger children (and older ones for that matter) may be full of all the excitement of a new school. Let them talk, they need to know you are listening too. If, after the first few weeks, you are not sure how things are going, get in touch with us to hear our perspective. Your child’s form teacher/supervisor will be able to give you a snapshot of how things are going.

Help consolidate friendships by inviting new friends for tea or arranging a meet up at the weekend.  Sometimes girls in particular will look for their “best friend” and exclude other new friendships as a result; chat about the benefits of wide friendship groups and avoid excluding others. Our New Parents’ Evening on Thursday 4th October will be a great opportunity to meet the parents of your child’s new-found friends and make connections, and we encourage all our new parents to attend, whatever year group your child is in

We know that these changes are often equally as daunting for you as parents. We try to help you make the transition by being more than happy to answer your questions, however trivial, and doing our utmost to get to know your child. In my experience it is far better to share a small worry with us rather than wait until it is a real problem. For most children, there will be no issues at all, but it doesn’t hurt to be prepared!

Sue Baillie
Pastoral Director