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Starting School - What to expect

A child"s first day at school is the start of an exciting adventure, filled with new discoveries and challenges. Like any "new" journey in life, it is always good to be prepared.

When children start school, they are expected to: take turns in both speaking and listening; do simple counting (e.g. up and down stairs, reading door numbers etc.); get dressed and undressed for PE; go to the toilet by themselves and pay attention.

Keeping focused is often a challenge for young children starting "big school", especially for learners who are very physical. Equipping your child with these essential skills is a good idea and there are many ways to achieve this:

  • Practice the school routine, such as getting ready in the morning, getting dressed, travelling to and from school.
  • Establish the bedtime and morning routine that they will have when they start school in advance. Sleep is very important.
  • Ensure your child has a good breakfast before leaving for school. Choosing breakfast foods that are rich in whole grains, fibre, and protein while low in added sugar can boost your child"s attention span, concentration and memory — which they need to learn in school.
  • Always say goodbye to your child and reassure them that you will be there to pick them up at the end of the school day.
  • If your child is worried, ask them what would help them to feel better, for example, where they want to say goodbye, what they want to do after school etc. If you seem worried or "different", your child will sense this and begin to worry too.
  • Don"t plan too many after-school activities for the first few weeks. Rest is very important, and so is free time to explore and play at home, especially when developing gross and fine motor skills.
  • Be available to listen to your child. Children often like to say "how their day went" straight after school. Be "all ears".

Remember too that as a parent, you are establishing a new relationship with your child"s school and their teacher. You may want to attend the "preschool" events with your child, such as "play and stay" sessions; this will ease transition and familiarise your child with their new environment and school family/staff. You could also speak to the school about their expectations for behaviour and learning and find out if the school has any "Golden Rules" that you can start to use at home too.

Most of all, be positive and encourage your child to embrace the whole school experience. Through school and learning your child can change their world. Now, that sounds like an exciting adventure.

The Primary Curriculum (Age 5-11)

A wide range of subjects and topics are taught during your child"s primary education and schools assess children"s progress throughout their learning. National Tests (or SATs) are taken by children at the end of a Key Stage. These tests happen at the end of Year 2 and Year 6 and children in these year groups will sit tests in Reading, Mathematics, and Grammar, Punctuation & Spelling. Tests are marked externally and the results reported to schools and parents at the end of the year. 

In addition, Year 1 children are given a short, simple phonics assessment to make sure they have learned phonic decoding to an agreed standard by the age of 6. This phonics screening check helps teachers identify who needs extra help, so they can give them extra support to improve reading skills. These children re-take the assessment in Year 2.

New tests will be introduced in the summer of 2016 to assess work from the new curriculum. Test results will be reported as a scaled score, where the expected score is 100, instead of graded levels. Schools may also choose to have internal tests for other year groups around the same time and provide information to you about how your child is progressing.

What is Baseline Assessment?

From September 2016, schools in England will be required to demonstrate expected levels of progress from a baseline in reception. The reception baseline assessment will score children against the knowledge and understanding typical for children at the start of reception year.

Preparing for the National Test (SATs)

Although they are not the "be all and end all" of your child"s education, the National Tests (SATs) can potentially be quite stressful. Providing your child with some simple "steps to success" will improve their confidence and help them to feel prepared.

Create a "learning planner" with your child focusing on the areas within the tested subjects that they struggle with. Vary the subjects daily and stick to a specified time and duration every day.

Talk to your child when they have finished their task: "How do you feel that went?" "Do you need any extra help?" "What areas are you still struggling with?"

Encourage your child to stay calm. Use breathing exercises, open conversations, or even meditation to help dilute any negative feelings and eradicate the "stress" side of the tests.

To support this further, why not introduce your child to the "growth mindset" concept, explaining how it is often our mistakes, errors and challenges in life that fuel our progress and development. Meaning, "it is okay not to be okay". By making mistakes we often realise and identify areas to develop and improve.

Learning should be a fun process: try to shape some of the key exam objectives around the interests of your child. For example, with percentages, fractions and word problems, why not take your child shopping? By connecting knowledge with experience, things start to "make sense" to children.

During the week of the tests, stay positive and relaxed. Make sure your child has a healthy breakfast (every morning) and drinks plenty of water.

Children sit the following National Tests in Year 2 and Year 6: 

  • Maths
  • Reading
  • Grammar & Punctuation
  • Spelling
Supporting your child's learning at home

From September 2016, schools in England will be required to demonstrate expected levels of progress from a baseline in reception. The reception baseline assessment will score children against the knowledge and understanding typical for children at the start of reception year. 

If learning is fun, your child will be eager for more! Make up rhymes to help remember times tables, play games to improve Maths skills and memory, and read stories together. Give your child lots of encouragement and praise, rewarding their efforts as well and their achievements.

Read, read and then read some more. Reading should be part of your daily routine. Bedtime stories provide an enchanting end to the day.

Most schools will follow a reading scheme and will often send books home in your child"s book bag. Collins Big Cat is a popular choice for many schools as it includes a variety of formats, well-known authors and a great mix of fiction and non-fiction books. Look out for Collins Big Cat Reading Lions, a new range of reading books for home that complement the readers your child is using at school.

Encourage play. Through movement children learn about their world. They acquire self-confidence and self-esteem through play, especially in the motor domain. Provide your child with opportunities to play and discover. Get "stuck in"!

Look at homework tasks together, talk about the activity and make sure they understand exactly what it is they need to do. Once they have finished, talk together about what they have learned and whether they found the activity difficult.

Encourage your child to do "little and often" for the most benefit, so they do not get too tired – a day at school can be exhausting!

Reassure your child that there is no reason for them to frightened by testing; be matter-of-fact about tests and just present them as a small part of your child"s time at primary school.

Make sure you have a great selection of books at home to help children with tricky spellings or to understanding the meaning of a word.

Understanding the national curriculum