Back to school – fear or relief?

Back to school – fear or relief?

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There’s been a lot of photos and quotes on social media these past few weeks talking about the feelings associated with going back to school. For children it may be apprehension or excitement. For parents relief and anticipation. For teachers mixed emotions around “where did the summer go” and “how can I last until half term?”.

I’ve never been a teacher so I can’t comment on the feelings for teachers. I do know that people do like to comment on the long holidays and give their opinions on too long or too short. There seems to be no other job where you have such extended holidays, but also no other job where the stresses and pressures during the work hours are as they are for those in education.

I do know as a parent that there are mixed feelings for us. For me personally I’m happy to welcome the new term. It does bring lots of anxiety too for my teenage children navigating their way through High school with the options and exams coming up, but it also brings routine, normality and some space from the endless need to entertain.

As someone who works predominantly with schools of course it brings work in for us too. The summer weeks are a good time to take stock, complete some work I’ve not had the chance to do in term time and to generally prepare for the very busy weeks to come. This year has been no exception. Much has been accomplished along with holidays and juggling family and work life.

I have to say it’s not always a refreshing time during the summer. For some vulnerable children the change in routine can be difficult and can cause weeks of adjustment, only to have to readjust once school starts again. Gone are the days of lounging around doing whatever I want in the summer holidays too. For those teachers with children you’ll know this feeling – it’s great to be able to spend extended time with your children but relaxation may not be on the agenda.

So the new term looms ahead of us – what might it bring? For schools of course it’s new classes, new curriculums sometimes, new structures and new colleagues. For children and young people, it’s another year older, another year closer to the end of their educational experience. I’m more conscious the older my children get just how quickly it does go and it’s even more important to make sure support is there as soon as possible. The longer it’s left the harder it is to put in place.

As this blog is read by people from both education and parents I wanted to just mention today about partnership. Just how important the home/school partnership is. This is the time to cultivate the right start to that partnership, setting the scene for how it might transpire over the coming year. So here’s some tips, whether you’re on the education or home side – we are all in this together to create the best environment for our children to learn and develop.

Do your homework. I have mixed feelings about homework but in this sense, as adults, we all need to be prepared and understand the challenges for the other party. For us parents take some time to get to know the school – the strengths and limitations. You can look through the website, read the newsletters etc. Your child may have been in the school a few years or if it’s a new school to you I’m sure you’ll have done this research before choosing the school. However, things change. Try and keep up to date on the educational changes and how they might impact your child’s school. Has the leadership team changed in any way?

If you’re a member of the school staff, then find out about the child and their family. Read through the reports on the child from previous years. Speak to staff members who have had the most to do with the child. I’m continually amazed at the amount of teaching assistants and pastoral staff who aren’t invited to relevant meetings about that child – often they will know them the best.

Arrange a meeting at the start of term. Whether this comes from the school or the parent doesn’t matter but make sure a meeting is scheduled to discuss the child’s progress. At this meeting talk about the summer and what may have happened for the child. Any changes, special events, milestones that may impact on their learning or engagement at school. Look at the term ahead; the curriculum, the challenges, the opportunities and agree a support plan together that both home and school can execute.

Make sure the relevant people know the needs of the child. In secondary school particularly it becomes difficult for all the new teachers to know the children and to understand their specific needs. We have come across some practical ways to help with this. Some call it a passport or traffic light system that shows the child and their needs. You may have their likes and dislikes, how they may react in certain circumstances, and what to do in each situation. Another way is to look at the curriculum and special occasions coming up such as Mother’s Day, Children in Need day. Then mark against those days the children who may struggle with these and some ways to pre-empt those difficulties.

Fore-warned is fore-armed they say and that’s definitely true where vulnerable children are concerned. Knowing what’s coming up and what may have an impact on them emotionally will help everyone to be able to support that child adequately. Open communication throughout the year obviously is a given to encourage this and although it seems time consuming it will save the school lots of time and energy in the long run.

So whether you are feeling inspired and ready to go or tired and apprehensive of the year to come I hope that as we work together we will be able to make this upcoming year the best ever for our children and schools. As ever, we appreciate what you all do in our schools and acknowledge the incredible pressures you are under at times. If we can do anything to help in any way please contact us, and have a great first few weeks!

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