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Primary School Guide: preparing to start school

Starting school can be exciting and daunting all at the same time for both parents and children. But with a little preparation and encouragement, most children settle in easily at school.

We have put together this guide to help you and your little one prepare to start primary school!

Firstly, let’s go over the parent’s checklist

1. Uniforms, pencil case, pencils, lunch box…Have you got everything they will need? Click here for a handy shopping checklist.

2. Label anything and everything!

3. Find out how reception children are introduced to the school and what happens on the first day – talk this through with your child so they know what to expect.

4. Tell the school everything about your little one – do they have any needs? Requirements? Anything their teacher should know?

5. Ensure you start off on the right foot with the school – be open, communicative, and friendly.

6. Go to as many meetings as possible before your child starts – if you can’t attend then ask for the information to be sent to you.

7. Give the school copies of any reports or documents to the school.

And now onto preparing your little one

Over the summer

· Read books together about starting school (you’ll find recommendations in the resources below).

· Play listening games to help with following instructions. ‘Simon Says’ or ‘Can you find?' games are great for this.

· Help to develop your little one’s independence by giving them a few responsibilities like laying the table or feeding a pet.

· Teach them useful phrases such as ‘can I join in’ or ‘do you want to share?’.

· Get them familiar with how their name looks on paper and help them practice writing it down themselves (but don’t worry if they can’t do this by the time school starts, reassure them that they will be able to do this soon).

· Ensure they’re confident (or are in the process of learning) vital self-care skills like going to the toilet, feeding themselves, washing their hands, using a tissue, dressing, and undressing and tidying up.

Closer to the start of term

· Chat to your little one about starting school and show them the school’s website or brochure.

· If your child is anxious about school, focus on things they’ll enjoy doing and discuss these together.

· Find photos of you and other family members at school, chat about the happy memories.

· Get your little one to try on their new uniform to get used to it.

· If your little one has a favourite security toy or blanket ask the teacher to find out if your child is allowed to bring it with them just in case.

· Get into the routine early, practice the school morning and the school run as much as possible.

The transition

Transitions can be difficult.

If your little one has already spent time in a nursery or preschool, they’re already on their way to having the social and practical skills they need for school.

They’re used to spending time apart from you, mixing with other children, taking instructions from and communicating with adults, looking after their own belongings etc.

If your little one hasn’t been to nursery or you’re concerned about them settling-in at school, don’t worry – click here to check out our guide all about transitions after you finish this article to help you prepare them for this big step.

The first-week checklist

· Do you know where you need to take your child and at what time?

· Do you know where to collect your child and at what time?

· Do you know what they’ll need to bring with them the first few days e.g. book bag, space clothes etc.

· Do you and your little one knows where to hang coats and PE kits?

· Does your child know who’ll be collecting them each day after school?

· Do you know if you can take your child into the classroom to settle them or are they expected to go in by themselves?

· Have you put name labels on everything you can think of? And does your child know where to find these?

· Have you made sure your well-being is taken care of as well? Taken that first day of school photo? Prepared for longer hours without your child?

The first few weeks

Some children settle into primary school life quickly and with ease and some take a little more time. Don’t worry if they’re tearful or clingy, it’s normal and they will settle quickly once they’re in the environment.

If your little one seems tired at the end of the day, let them have some quiet time or nap once home, if they’re hungry give them a healthy snack and drink to help get their energy levels back.

It’s also a good idea to let your child get used to school life before introducing any after-school activities. We also recommend keeping the first few weekends quiet, giving them some time to recharge.

Keep chatting with your little one about their feelings about school, setting aside some special time to chat about their day.

Some children may lose enthusiasm about school over time, if this happens use a calendar to help them understand when weekends and holidays are and arrange a few treats, so they have something to look forward to!

Finally, be sure to form a friendly relationship with your child's teacher, they’re an expert in what they do so will be able to help if you have any concerns or worries as the school year progresses.

Additional resources


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