Expert advice on entry to some of the most competitive senior schools in the UK.

Back to School: Advice for Families

The nights are growing longer – a sure sign that summer is almost over and another school term is on the horizon!

Going back to school, or starting secondary school after your child has gained their 11 plus place, needn’t be stressful. Follow our helpful tips to make the summer to school transition a breeze!

Back to School Advice: Do a Trial Run

Whether or not your child is starting at a different school, a new year brings change: from unfamiliar classrooms to new teachers. It’s important to help your child feel confident and comfortable on the first day – as such, some preparation may be needed.

If possible, visit a school open day and meet your son or daughter’s new teacher in person; or, if a face-to-face meeting isn’t an option, look the teacher up on your school’s website and peruse any welcome materials together. Organise a tour of the school so that your child feels familiar with their new environment before the first day. Alternatively, if your child is a little older, arrange a visit to the grounds school and ask your child to show you around. This will refresh their memory after long weeks of holiday, and help them feel acclimatised in advance of their return.

Back to School Advice: Strengthen Relationships

Familiar faces can make a huge difference to children on the first day of school – but it’s easy for friendships to slip over the holidays when contact becomes more sporadic. Telephone parents from the previous year’s class and find out what class (or school) their child will be in. Arrange playdates or a group outing with a few classmates before school starts to remind everyone of these relationships and strengthen their bond. Consider a car-sharing arrangement, too; if your child travels to school with a friend, they are likely to feel more confident about the day ahead.

Back to School Advice: Be Prepared

The end of the holidays can feel like a real drag for students; a feeling that is only exacerbated by returning to school in a state of unpreparedness, without the right kit, books, or stationery. Get your hands on any official ‘class supply’ lists well in advance of the start of term, and indulge in a little retail therapy with your son or daughter. Whilst it’s important to make sure that you purchase all the vital items from the list, this is a great opportunity to make the prospect of returning to the classroom a fun one. Allowing them to choose a colourful notebook, a cool pencil case or some brightly-coloured pens will make the process enjoyable.

young girl smiling and looking over her shoulder into the camera

Next, turn your attention to their gym kit and uniform: are there any special items that need to be purchased this year (a hockey stick or football boots, for instance?). Have a trying-on session and ensure that everything still fits correctly; if pieces of clothing are now too small, recycle or give these items away and replace with bigger sizes. Do you need to buy everything new or are there second-hand stores you can visit? Perhaps there are friends or family nearby who can provide hand-me-downs?

Finally, book an appointment with your GP. You’ll want to check on your child’s general health as well as making sure that they are up to date with the necessary vaccinations and in possession of any medical certificates that may be required by their school.

Back to School Advice: Ease into the Routine

Whilst routine is nearly always recommended for children – whether they’re at school or not – it’s easy for things to slip during the holidays, and for late nights (and meal times) to creep in. It’s important that the return to the classroom isn’t too much of a shock to the system, therefore.

Start by resetting sleep patterns to where they should be during term time. Gradually introduce early nights – say, by half an hour each evening – until your child is going to bed and waking up at the appropriate times. Make sure you reach this point at least three days before school begins, so that your son or daughter is used to the new sleeping arrangement. The same goes for eating habits, which need to be ‘reset’ so that your child maintains a good level of energy and focus throughout the school day. Wean the student in question off any bad habits – grazing all day, for instance – and impose a stricter regime of breakfast, lunch and dinner at set times (including some healthy snacks at midway points if necessary).

Following the advice given above will not only help your son or daughter ease back into school without too much difficulty, but also will ensure that you avoid ‘first-day mayhem’ on the relevant morning!

Back to School Advice: Dates and Goals

Spend some time with the school calendar and your own diary in advance of the new term. As obvious as it may sound, it’s worth highlighting any important dates and making sure these are all listed in your own diary – things will get busy as the term progresses, and this way you can feel confident that you won’t miss anything.

Set clear goals for your son or daughter. Boundaries and routine are valuable tools for any budding student, and many young people appreciate the structure that targets offer. Think about priorities, too: during the evening, where should homework fit in? Before or after dinner? If there are sports to be played or instruments to be practiced, where do these fall in the pecking order? How much television or internet access is your son or daughter allowed on a school night, and do all their other chores have to be finished first, or do you prefer to allow them some relaxation time immediately after school? There’s no right or wrong answer, necessarily, but it’s important to discuss priorities with your child and set some guidelines; this will help ensure that the school year gets off to a flying start from the very first day.

Read our guide to surviving the first term at a new school and our back to school recommended reads.

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