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st catherines

Milestone moments

By | Education, family, Playing, Relationships
by Naomi Bartholomew
Headmistress, St Catherine’s Prep School

Life at Prep School is full of firsts. The first time we do anything requires courage and determination which is why I so admire young children and so enjoy watching their early journey through school.

Before joining school children will have already had many milestone moments – moving from cot to bed, their first steps, their first tooth and many more. The first day of school arrives all too quickly and from there a series of challenges and wonderful opportunities await.

Ahead of starting school, encourage your child to engage in creative play. Allow them to solve some of their own problems – when they put their shoes on the wrong feet, pause and see if they can figure that out for themselves. Provide simple choices but limit them to two or three options – I often refer to this as the ‘carrot or peas’ approach. Rather than, “What would you like to eat?” which is a crazy question to ask a preschool child, offer two alternatives. Give your child opportunities for play games which involve taking turns and sharing as well as dressing up and role-play. Encourage the use of full sentences when talking to your child. Avoid comments like, “Mummy wants you to come over and help” and start to use, “Please can you come and help me,” and “thank you.”
The first day of school is a major event but don’t overplay this. You will have spent considerable time and effort choosing the right school, trust your instincts and remain calm and positive. Allow plenty of time for the school run on the first morning and leave as quickly as you can once your child is in the classroom and starting to settle. Your child will spend the day learning names of the other children in the class, being shown their immediate environment and they will most likely come home exhausted.

In the first term, establish a good rapport with your child’s teacher and encourage their early reading and writing at home as advised by the school. Ask what happens in the book that they are reading, and help with extending their vocabulary to include words such as ‘first, second, finally.’ Don’t be scared to use the correct vocabulary –
if your child can recite Hickory Dickory Dock they can learn the correct vocabulary and should be moving away from pet names for things.

You will hear about the first falling out between friends. If you have watched ‘The Secret Life of 4 year olds,’ you will see these happen frequently and are as quickly resolved. There will be moments where your child’s effort and success is recognised and other moments when they feel overlooked or left out. They are still in egocentric infant mode and it is important to remember that you are hearing a four year old’s version of events.

The first nativity brings lines to deliver, songs to sing and the chance to ‘perform’ in front of an audience. They will want to please you, please their teacher and be starting to want to please their peers by this stage. Frantic waving and trying to get their attention from your seat in
the audience is adding pressure to an already fairly daunting experience for some children.
By all means wave to them on arrival and reassure your child that you are there but try to keep it discreet.

By the end of the first year your child will be very attached to their first teacher and the school will prepare them for moving on to a new class, possibly with new pupils arriving too which can change the dynamic amongst the class. Over the first long summer break encourage more constructive play which requires your child to build things, take things apart and put them back together. Go on walks, build dens in the garden, start to ride a bike with stabilisers. Check table manners and correct use of cutlery and ‘please and thank yous.’ Use the days of the week more and continue with reading and basic writing.

Then come swimming lessons, possibly picking up an instrument for the first time, presenting in assembly and taking on minor roles of responsibility within the class (taking a message to the office or assisting with classroom chores). You will increasingly feel that you are not there for every milestone moment. This is important as your child will be forming a self-esteem based on their sense of their own achievements and by six we hope finding intrinsic motivation. They will be working out that effort impacts outcomes and they will be turning to peers to share their achievements. Winning the sack race, learning their times tables, holding the door open for a visitor, sharing their snack at break are all equally important.

Each of these little steps are, in fact, giant leaps. At our school we aim to capture the magic as it happens and share it with parents when we can. We ask the children to give everything a try and to step out of their comfort zone with as much confidence as possible. Learning at this age must be fun and curiosity must be fostered. Enjoy the milestone moments – they are to be cherished.

St Catherine’s is situated in the village of Bramley, three miles south of Guildford, which has fast train connections to London. Prep School girls benefit immeasurably from the world-class facilities of the Senior School, including the extensive grounds, 25m indoor pool, Sports Hall, dance studio, magnificent auditorium and 19th century chapel. Girls from age four engage in a full and varied curriculum which includes music, IT, ballet, and sport delivered by dedicated specialist teachers. Our Patron, HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, said on a recent visit, “You are all extremely lucky to be at such a wonderful school.”
www.stcatherines.info

Is your child falling behind at school?

By | children's health, Education, fun for children, play, Relationships, Uncategorized
by Polly Warren
Centre Manager at First Class Learning – Brighton

Could tutoring be the answer?

With children facing tougher exams and tests such as the new style GCSEs and the more challenging SATS tests for seven and 11 years olds, the tutoring industry is continuing to boom for children across the board, with a quarter of all school children receiving some form of tuition in 2018.

However, concerned parents are hiring tutors for their children not only for exam preparation, but for a whole number of reasons from helping give their children’s self-confidence a boost to giving them an extra challenge in their strongest areas. Some use tutors to help catch up with school work after absence, others to help their children grasp key concepts in maths or English if they’ve been struggling.

Whatever the reasons, tutoring has been shown to improve school performance, confidence and self-esteem, as well as help children develop independent study skills and learn at their own pace.

Maths is the most popular subject for tuition (77%), followed by English (55%) and then science (30%).

How to choose the right tuition for your child
In the past, choosing a tutor was largely based on personal recommendation, but nowadays the industry is far more professional and there are many different tutoring services to choose from.

One-to-one tutoring at home
These lessons usually take place in the student’s or tutor’s home and involve just the pupil and tutor. One-to-one attention may be required if a child is really struggling in a subject or if they have a complicated learning style, but this traditional option is by far the most expensive. One-to-one tutors charge on average between £25 and £40 per hour, working out between £100 and £160 per month.

One-to-one and small group tutoring at a study centre
During these sessions, an expert tutor will be responsible for no more than six children at a time. The tutor not only works with each child on their own individualised learning programme by providing expert support and guidance, but they also encourage independent learning.

When children study alongside other children in this sort of small, focused group, the pressure of sole one-on-one attention is taken off individual children, whilst allowing for one-to-one help from the tutor when needed.

This type of tutoring is typically cheaper than private one-to-one tutoring but can still be highly effective. Many children prefer it as it is not as intense as one-to-one home tuition and helps keep learning fun. Study centres charge between £60-£70 a month.

Parents of Evie, who attended Brighton’s First Class Learning’ study centre say:“We were really impressed with how much the support helped Evie. She has a much more positive attitude to learning and we can see a huge improvement in her confidence, ability and approach to her
maths work.”

Online tutoring
Online tuition is tutoring that takes place over the Internet using a communications programme such as Skype or Google+. Private online tutors are often more affordable (£20-£30 per hour) as they will not be required to travel and may choose to tutor more than one student at once, but many parents feel uneasy that tutors will not be in direct contact with the student.

It really makes a difference!
Extra tuition really can make a huge difference, and it’s more affordable and accessible than ever. Once a child starts understanding the material, the frustration, anxiety and apprehension they felt about schoolwork will disappear, and they will carry this new found confidence with them back to the classroom, allowing them to blossom and genuinely start to enjoy learning again.

Polly Warren is a teacher with many
years of experience across a range of educational settings, and Centre Manager of First Class Learning’s (FCL)
study centre in Brighton.
Please contact Polly on 01273 730873
www.firstclasslearning.co.uk/
brighton-withdean
brighton@firstclasslearning.co.uk

Hothouse or greenhouse? Surviving or thriving?

By | Education, environment, family, fun for children, Mental health, play, Relationships, Safety
by Tamara Pearson
Senior Teacher (Curriculum), Our Lady of Sion Junior School

One cannot foresee the pressure you put on yourself as a parent when the midwife first hands your newborn to you. Which nappies are best? Will this car seat save my child’s life? What does my pram say about us as parents? These soon turn to comparisons over when children learn to crawl, walk and talk. Once at school age, we cannot help but wonder “where is my child in the class?”, “are they happy?”, “does the school of our choice match the needs of our child(ren)?”

We all want the best for our children. So what do we go for? The ‘hothouse’ or the ‘greenhouse’? Are our children just ‘surviving’ or truly ‘thriving’?

To even begin to answer these questions, we must consider what the true purpose of education and the role of schools is. What are our children learning and why? How are they learning? How is failure perceived? How are children assessed and how is that communicated? Is learning/attainment ‘fixed’ or is there genuine room for growth and development of the mind?

Research shows that childhood anxiety is the highest it has ever been. Circumstances, finances, relationships, expectations, social media, diet and exercise all play their part. What are schools doing to address these challenges? Fostering an authentic mindset in students is crucial; the jobs they will have in the future may not yet exist today.

Much has been made of Growth Mindset in the world of work and education, but, in reality, this is not enough. In order to prepare children for life’s challenges, they need a full toolbox of skills. Having a proactive/positive approach needs to be underpinned by social, emotional, and academic tools in order to fully educate the whole child. It is not about just working hard, it is about working smart.

As professional educators, it is our responsibility to prepare children in moving beyond being passive consumers of information and toward becoming active innovators. We must actively inspire and provide genuine opportunities to develop children’s passions.

At our school, our children are driven by our ethos ‘Consideration Always’. As role models to the school community and beyond, we entrust them to develop and demonstrate the best version of themselves. Children develop when they are given the opportunity to do so. Mary Myatt’s philosophy of ‘high challenge, low threat’ leadsthe way.

Expecting consistent productivity and positivity is not realistic, attainable, or even desirable; we may flit between fixed and growth mindsets. This is okay. The clincher is to remember that whatever setbacks we face, we can reflect/process our thoughts, then jump back in the saddle and continue the ride to our intended destination.

Equipped with a well-developed toolkit of social, emotional, and academic skills, every child can take on inevitable setbacks (and pressures of success) with integrity, resolve and good humour.

Tamara Pearson is a member of the Senior Leadership Team at Our Lady of Sion Junior School in Worthing.
She is also mother to a six year old who attends Sion and is passionate about helping the Juniors embrace every enrichment opportunity available.
She is a UK Parliament Teacher Ambassador and in the last three years has seen Sion Juniors rewrite its Curriculum, assessment approach, create an Intergenerational Project, achieve Beach School status, Eco Schools Silver Award and make meaningful links with the community.
www.sionschool.org.uk

The Festival of Winter Walks

By | environment, family, Relationships, Sport

More and more of us are facing the impact of stress, overworking and the demands of everyday life. For example, in a 2018 poll by YouGov for the Mental Health Foundation 74% of UK adults reported having been so stressed at some point over the last year they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope. For many people, lack of exercise, being stuck indoors due to desk-bound jobs or being disconnected from green spaces can be big factors. Such feelings often come into sharper focus during the festive season, when staying on top of all the preparations, and pressures to party and be sociable can also pile in and stress us out.
If this sounds like you, or someone you know, then here’s the ideal festive uplift gift – the Festival Of Winter Walks, which will run from 20th December 2019 to 5th January 2020. It’s organised by the Ramblers, the charity which helps everyone, everywhere, enjoy walking and protects the places we all love to walk.

Ramblers groups across the UK will offer a warm welcome on hundreds of free festive walks. No matter where you live, and whether or not you’ve walked before, they’ll offer the chance to enjoy the wonderful winter landscape in good company; to relax, unwind and stress-bust, and to make new friends at a time of year when many people can feel anxious, stressed or
even isolated.

There will be fun winter-themed walks that the little ones will love; leisurely strolls under five miles for people new to walking; and longer walks for those that want more of a challenge. For those of you who may be short on time or want a gentler stroll, there will be Ramblers’ health walks.

Top tips for getting into winter walking
• Don’t worry if you’re not a seasoned walker, the Ramblers Festival Of Winter Walks includes lots of short group walks to get you started.
• Enjoy connecting with winter scenery and sounds. Have a mindful walk; slow down from the everyday rush and really take in your surroundings – the whistling wind, or starlings migrating to the UK for winter. Why not take some photos on your phone, and share them at #winterwalks and don’t forget to tag The Ramblers@RamblersGB
• Take a flask of warming tea, coffee or festive, hot spiced apple juice with you. Cinnamon sticks, ginger and mulling sachets are readily available from most supermarkets.
• For younger walkers: challenge them to find an interesting stick and become a wizard with a staff. Or find the crunchiest winter leaf, or gather pinecones, which they could paint back at home. There are lots more ideas for winter walking fun in the Festival of Winter Walks guide: www.ramblers.org.uk/foww
• If you enjoy joining a Festival Of Winter Walks event, why not join your nearest Ramblers group on their next walk?

Ramblers have 484 walking groups across the UK, including a growing number for young walkers.

You can find your nearest Ramblers group online at www.ramblers.org.uk

Parenting attitudes

By | children's health, family, Mental health, Relationships

Parents in the South East give the most praise, opt for reasoning over shouting and believe kindness is the most important attribute for their children to have, according to the results of an international parenting study.

As many as 94% of parents in the region agree that they regularly praise their youngsters – the highest of anywhere in the UK. Hugs and love are also a favoured method of rewarding good behaviour, with 53% of parents in the region siting affection as their chosen reward.

When it comes to discipline, parents in the South East value reasoning with children more than parents elsewhere in the UK. However, they are also the most likely to resort to using the silent treatment. 15% of those surveyed admitted to using this punishment – almost three times more than the UK average.
Kindness is the attribute that parents in the region believe is the most important for children to have, according to the research. They also value their youngsters being fun more than parents elsewhere in the country.

Insights into the region’s parenting style have been released following international parenting research conducted by My Nametags (www.mynametags.com), a global provider of name tags for children. The company compared the attitudes of thousands of European parents with children aged 16 and under and found that British parents are the strictest in Europe.

When it comes to discipline amongst British parents, over a third admit to being firm with their children – more than other EU countries.

Parents in the UK are also more likely to resort to star charts and bribery to encourage good behaviour. In fact, while a quarter of Brits use star charts as a form of discipline, this is less common overseas. Only 5% of parents in Italy and Portugal use the same approach.

At mealtimes, 48% of British parents expect children to eat ‘grown up’ foods and have good table manners. Over half uphold rigorous bedtime routines, while nearly 60% admit to regularly saying ‘no’ to things to teach their children patience. It seems the British parenting style is most different from those in Italy, where parents are the least strict. In fact, one-third of Italian parents admit to not being firm at all with their youngsters.

While British parents may be the strictest, they allow children to be far more independent from an early age compared to other countries, according to the research. Only 70% offer children help with everyday tasks – 10% less than the rest of Europe.  This might explain why UK residents are among the least likely to still live with their parents after the age of 18.

Encouraging play

By | dance & Art, Education, family, fun for children, play, Relationships, Sport, Theatre, Uncategorized
by Claire Russell
founder of PlayHOORAY!

Have you ever thought about how you can better encourage your child to play more effectively? Now, we don’t all live in an ideal world, our homes have to work for many different things, as well as look nice, but there are a few simple tricks we can apply to create a more playful home.

• Turn off the TV and keep distractions to a minimum when your child is playing.

• Keep resources to hand and ensure your child knows where they are, helping them to become independent and not rely on you to find the answers.

• Teach your child how to do an activity first. Don’t assume they know how to take on the role of a shopkeeper despite the numerous times they’ve been to the supermarket with you!

• Go with the flow. If you set up an activity for your little one, but they do something totally different to what you’d intended, that is absolutely fine. Support them and encourage them to follow
their own initiative!

• If they have enjoyed playing with a particular activity try leaving it out for them to access when they want for at least a week. If you don’t like the mess, perhaps you can throw a tea towel over it?

• Praise your child for their play, the way they play and what they are doing, reassuring your child and showing them how much you value their play. After all, it is supporting their development!

• Try not to interrupt your child when they are focusing, if it can wait then let it. Young children can only concentrate for small amounts of time, so you’ll probably only be waiting for a few minutes anyway!

But what exactly should you be doing when your child is playing?
In reality, there are some days when you want your little one to play to occupy themselves so that you can take a breather because, let’s face it, it’s exhausting being a parent and its important to prioritise looking after yourself! And there are those days when you have a list as long as your arm and you just need five minutes to get jobs done or make dinner. And that’s fine too, honestly it is. We all do it! But then there are days when you do have time, you do have a flicker of energy and you have the headspace to support your child as they play – great! When that occurs, there are many things you can do that will support their development:

• Sit by your child, giving them a sense of security, reassuring them that you’re in sight while showing them that you value their play.

• If they invite you to play with them, copy them. Don’t take charge, just do what they do and let them take the lead.They will love it!

• When you feel you can, talk about what you are doing. You might feel a bit silly doing it but you are teaching your child how to play. Use words they may recognise but introduce new vocabulary too. Tell them what you like, dislike, your favourites and give reasons. Your child may offer their opinion or they may not. There’s no pressure!

• As your child plays, as long as you don’t think it will break their concentration, comment on what they’re doing. Suggest a few things you like about their playing, for example: “I like the way you are stacking the bricks to make a tall tower. I like the way you are trying to get that to stick. I can see you are persevering.”

These show your child that you value what they are doing. Your child may choose to tell you about their play and may begin running their own commentary.

These are just a few ideas you can implement to encourage play. You don’t have to do them all, try a few and see if it makes a difference.

Happy playing!

Mum to one and Early Years Specialist, Claire Russell is founder of playHOORAY! and the designer of playPROMPTS activity cards designed to equip parents with realistic, fuss-free play ideas. For further information please visit www.playhooray.co.uk

No fault divorce

By | Education, family, Finance, Legal, Relationships
by Carrie Crown
Mackrell Turner Garrett Solicitors

Under the current law, if you and your spouse have separated within the last two (or sometimes even five) years you must provide evidence that your spouse has either committed adultery or otherwise behaved in a way that you cannot tolerate to live with before the Court will grant permission for you to get a divorce.

These ‘fault-based’ divorces were thrust into the public eye last year when the case of Owens vs Owens, came before the Supreme Court to consider whether Mrs Owens could divorce her husband on the basis of his unreasonable behaviour towards her. Mr Owens defended the divorce.

Ultimately, the Supreme Court reluctantly agreed with Mr Owens that his behaviour during the marriage had not been unreasonable and therefore Mrs Owens is forced, for the time being, to remain married to him.

As a result, neither Mr or Mrs Owens can ask the Court to make a decision regarding the division of the assets of the marriage, as a financial application in divorce can usually only be dealt with once the Court has declared that the divorce can proceed and decree nisi, often called the ‘first stage’ of the divorce has taken place.

Although Mr and Mrs Owens had no dependent children, the law as it currently stands can be particularly onerous for parents of young children who find themselves unable to divorce and therefore unable to sort out the matrimonial finances for several years after separation has taken place. This can result in significant delay in being able to provide a stable home for children and suitable arrangements for their ongoing care. All of this will inevitably impact upon the emotional wellbeing of the children.

People are often therefore forced to petition for divorce for one of the ‘fault-based’ reasons, submitting evidence to the Court as to why the behaviour of their spouse has led to the breakdown of the marriage. This often results in hurt feelings, anger and increased tensions between the parties.

Over the years, the Government have been reluctant to reform the UK’s divorce law, believing that making it easier for couples to divorce would somehow undermine the sanctity of marriage and increase the rates of divorce.

In 2017, a national survey carried out by the Nuffield Foundation found that 62% of petitioners and 78% of respondents in a divorce said that using fault had made the process more bitter, 21% of fault-respondents said fault had made it harder to sort out arrangements for children, and 31% of fault-respondents thought fault made sorting out finances harder.

In 2018, Resolution, an organisation which consists of 6,500 family lawyers (myself included), declared that there was a ‘divorce crisis’ in the UK and in November launched it’s ‘Good Divorce week’ seeking to highlight the impact upon children in particular of a system of divorce which attaches blame to one party.

Finally, following a 12 week public consultation, on 9th April 2019, Justice Secretary David Gauke announced that divorce law in the UK would be reformed and that, in future, the only ground for divorce would be that the marriage had ‘irretrievably broken down’ commenting that ‘hostility and conflict between parents leave their mark on children and can damage their life chances.’

The proposals will also dispense with the requirement to provide evidence of the ‘fact’ of adultery or unreasonable behaviour and substitute it for a ‘statement of irretrievable breakdown.’ The current two-stage process, Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute, will remain and a minimum timeframe of six months will be set from the date of the petition to decree absolute. The option will also be made available for parties to issue a joint-divorce petition.

Currently there is no set timetable for the legislative reforms to take place. Let’s face it, the Government have been somewhat busy of late! David Gauke has said, however, that
he intends the reforms to take place as soon as parliamentary time allows.

The changes do not, in my professional opinion, make the process of divorce any ‘easier’ and certainly no quicker than the current system. It will, however, make the process far less adversarial and emotionally damaging for all those involved.

Carrie Crown, Family Associate Solicitor at Mackrell Turner Garrett, Surrey, is a resolution-accredited specialist and is therefore committed to resolving family disputes in a non-confrontational and constructive manner wherever possible.

Email: Carrie.Crown@mtg.uk.net
Telephone: 01483 755609
www.mackrellsurrey.com

Encourage learning at home talk to your child!

By | children's health, Education, family, fun for children, Health, Relationships, Uncategorized
by Claire Russell
Early Years Specialist

Research released by the Department of Education suggests that 100,000 under fives are not learning at home but according to Early Years Specialist and mum to one, Claire Russell, who is a huge advocate of learning via play, it’s all about talking to your child and spotting opportunities for them to learn as you go about your everyday routine.

Claire told us: “Talking and singing to your child is the best thing you could do. From day one provide a running commentary telling them about what you’re doing. Even though they may not be responding or talking back, the words will be going in. It will provide children with a wide range of vocabulary! And don’t be scared to use big words either!”

She continues: “Learning doesn’t necessarily mean sitting down with a pen on paper, particularly when it comes to pre-schoolers. It can be counting steps as you climb, spotting letters in road signs or taking turns in a game.”

In particular, the survey found that over half of parents do not spend time teaching children their alphabet but Claire believes learning through play is important in so many other ways.

“Learning is not just the ABCs and 123s, it’s about so much more. We need to teach our children life skills such as social skills, kindness and empathy, how to share, take turns how to look after ourselves and our bodies, how to think of others and the world around us. And who better to teach them? Us! Their parents and carers are their first teachers. We all know children watch, observe and copy. So it’s important we model the skills and characteristics we hope to see in our children.”

Here Claire provides her tips for encouraging play at home:
• Turn off the TV and keep distractions to a minimum when your child is playing.

• Keep resources to hand and ensure your child knows where they are, helping them to become independent and not rely on you to find the answers.

• Teach your child how to do an activity first. Don’t assume they know how to take on the role of a shopkeeper despite the numerous times they’ve been to the supermarket with you!

• Go with the flow. If you set up an activity for your little one, but they do something totally different to what you’d intended, that is absolutely
fine. Support them and encourage them to follow their own initiative!

• If they have enjoyed playing with a particular activity try leaving it out for them to access when they want for at least a week. If you don’t like the mess, perhaps you can throw a tea towel over it?

• Praise your child for their play, the way they play and what they are doing, reassuring your child and showing them how much you value their play, after all, it is supporting their development!

• Try not to interrupt your child when they are focusing, if it can wait then let it. Young children can only concentrate for small amounts of time, so you’ll probably only be waiting for a few minutes anyway!

• Sit by your child, giving them a sense of security, reassuring them that you’re in sight while showing them that you value their play.

• If they invite you to play with them, copy them. Don’t take charge, just do what they do and let them take the lead. They will love it!

• When you feel you can, talk about what you are doing. You might feel a bit silly doing it but you are teaching your child how to play. Use words they may recognise but introduce new vocabulary too. Tell them what you like, dislike, your favourites and give reasons. Your child may offer their opinion or they may not. There’s no pressure!

• As your child plays, as long as you don’t think it will break their concentration, comment on what they’re doing. Suggest
a few things you like about their playing, for example, “I like the way you are stacking the bricks to make a tall tower.” ” I like the way you are trying to get that to stick.” or “I can see you are persevering.” These show your child that you value what they are doing. Your child may choose to tell you about their play and may begin running their own commentary.

Claire Russsell is currently working with the Department of Education on their Chat, Play and Read campaign. Claire is founder of playHOORAY! and designer of the playPROMPT activity cards providing realistic play ideas for preschoolers.

For further information about playHOORAY! and to download the please visit www.playhooray.co.uk.

Getting ready for a successful start at school

By | children's health, Education, fun for children, Playing, Relationships, Uncategorized
by Naomi Bartholomew
Headmistress, St Catherine’s Prep School

As you look forward with a mixture of excitement and nerves to your child starting school in September, here are some practical tips to help ensure that your child has a happy and successful start.

Forming links
Most schools now offer settling in days or part days for their youngest pupils. These can be very helpful and a good chance for you to put names to faces. As well as the all-important class teacher, I recommend getting to know the teaching assistant, Head, school secretary, and parents who are a part of the PTA. All of these will be key in helping both you and your child settle into new routines. It can also be handy to work out which other parents live near to you and who might be moving from the same nursery or preschool. Also involve anyone else who might be involved in your weekly routines – grandparents or child-minders so that they too have made some connections ahead of the start of term. I know of one friend who held a name labelling party in order to meet some other friendly looking parents – this is certainly one way to get to know each other and get the dreaded name labels sewn into as many items as you possibly can. Name everything!

Understanding expectations and routines
It seems obvious but make sure you have all of the essential information early on. Some schools have phased starts which begin with mornings only or alternate full days. This is certainly important to plan ahead particularly if your child starting school coincides with you returning to full-time work. Arrangements for drop off and pick up and what to look out for in terms of communication from the school whether that be weekly memos or newsletter or via the school’s website are also key. Getting dates into your diary for parents’ evenings, nativity plays and other things you won’t want to miss is also important.

Encouraging independence and self-help skills over the summer holidays is far more important than trying to teach your child letters and numbers. Can they dress themselves? If not, start to practise that as soon as possible.

Family logistics
Whether this is your first child to start school or a younger sibling, there will be an impact on all of your family. Consider the school run and daily family routines carefully in order to ensure that things run as smoothly as possible.

Extra-curricular activities and playdates
Even for those who have been used to a full day at nursery and a number of extra-curricular activities each week beware of signing up to any additional activities in your child’s first term. They will be learning in a whole new way at school and need time to rest each day when they get home, as will you! Similarly play dates and sleep overs can be very tempting but less is most definitely more in term one.

Younger pupils
Parents with younger aged children, those with summer birthdays in particular, can be anxious about their child being school ready. Trust the school to make the necessary adjustments and remember that age and stage of development can be different for each child.

The first day of term
Stay calm, allow additional time for the school run and cherish the moment – enjoy the photo on the front doorstep marking the occasion and don’t linger too long over the goodbyes. There is a very small window in which to see your child settled and interested in their new surroundings. If you linger and need further reassurance it is likely your child will pick up on that in a split second of doubt and have a wobble. So make a dash for the door as soon as you are able. Many children will have already been used to nursery school and playgroups so remember that you have left them before and all was well. You will have chosen a school you have confidence in and the staff will be able to reassure your child and make sure that the first day is a positive one. If you are the one whose child clings or cries, do not be embarrassed. They will settle once you have gone and the school will contact you to let you know that is the case. Have a plan for what you are then going to do next whether it be return to work or head for a strong coffee with a friend. The day will be one full of excitement for your child.

As your child settles
Remember that day one might feel like Christmas day, full of excitement but that as the weeks go on your child will become tired. The calmer and more prepared you feel as a parent, the more likely your child will also feel ready and willing to skip into school.

Hence, I recommend:
• Talking positively about going to school.
• Helping your child into the routine of managing their own clothing, school book bag and so on.
• Make sure your child gets a good night’s sleep.
• Getting into good habits of arriving in good time for the start of school.
• Listening to your child tell you about the school day but avoiding 20 questions.
• Trusting the school and their experience – they will allow your child space to grow and develop and it is important that you support them in that.
• Talking to your child’s teacher if you feel uncertain or unsure – communication with the school is vital and building relationships with school staff (admin, teachers and teaching assistants) is really important.

Good luck!

St Catherine’s Prep School, Bramley extends a warm welcome to parents who would like to visit the school.
Open Mornings: Wednesday 25th September and Thursday 17th October.
Please contact Sally Manhire, Prep School Registrar, on 01483 899665. www.stcatherines.info

How to help your child manage failure

By | Education, family, Health, Mental health, Relationships, Uncategorized

Does your child fear ‘failure’? It’s a frightening word isn’t it and one that puts a sinking feeling in our stomachs.

Today’s young people have to navigate their way through a long list of potential failures: What if I fail my GCSEs? What if I don’t pass my next swimming level? What if I come last in a race? What if I don’t pass my piano grade?

We can’t protect our children from the risk of failure and we shouldn’t try to. As parents, all we can do is help them to cope with and learn from all these situations.

Children’s charity, ChildLine, reports that one of the things children worry about the most when it comes to failing is disappointing their parents. So, reassuring them that you don’t expect them to excel at everything can go a long way.

It’s worth just taking time to think about whether you are passing on some of your own anxieties or expectations onto them. You can talk to them about possible solutions/courses of action if things don’t go as well as they would have liked.

Children’s health and well-being practitioner, osteopath Sheree McGregor, says the word ‘failure’ comes from seeing learning as a two-dimensional scale with success (good) at one end and failure (bad) at the other. A much more positive approach is to look at learning as more multi-dimensional.

Sheree believes we can help our children a great deal by teaching them to look at their results not as ‘success’ or ‘failure’, but as opportunities to explore. Exploration means a chance to discover.

In practice, this means encouraging your child to be curious of a result and ask questions such as:
• What have I learned about what doesn’t work?
• Can this explain something that I didn’t set out to explain?
• What can I do with these results?
• What have I discovered that I didn’t set out to discover?

The same approach should be applied to successful results, which can often be a missed learning opportunity – we rarely ask the child holding the trophy what they have learnt from their experience!

She also warns that ‘failing’ should never be swept under the carpet. Avoiding failure merely heightens the dread of it, so when it does happen it will be felt more strongly and deeply.

Sheree adds: “Helping a child to focus on learning in which there are choices and opportunities allows them to try different pathways so that learning remains a positive experience.

“We, as parents, are often tempted to step in when things become challenging but learning to deal with setbacks helps children develop important life skills such as creative thinking, and resilience.”

Sheree is a practitioner for the Sunflower Programme, which uses a pioneering approach to children’s health and well-being. The programme focuses on integrating the brain with the body to help children become the best that they can be. Sunflower has helped hundreds of children – many with diagnosed health, behavioural or learning difficulties, others who are underachieving at school and some, who for no obvious reason, need a little extra help to achieve their potential.

Sheree explains: “Resilience is a term that is used a lot at Sunflower. Sunflower believes that building resilience within children that extends to their body, brain and emotional state will enable them to cope better with life challenges and reach their potential.

“Often using the analogy of learning to ride a bike can be useful – when you fall off, you get back on until eventually you can ride without thinking about it. However, the absolute best way to deal with a child during challenging times is to make them feel supported and loved as much as possible.”

Mette Theilmann, from Parenting Success Coaching, says listening without saying anything can go a long way towards helping children cope with failure. She explains: “We want the sad feeling to go away so they can go back and be happy again, so we go into over drive to fix. But because of these feelings, we often find it hard to listen and accept what we hear or see.

“It is listening that gives them the greatest comfort to cope with the situation, their feelings and problems.

“Being listened to helps our children accept the situation better and allows them to problem solve themselves – since it’s our acceptance of their unhappy feelings/behaviours that can make it easier for them to cope with the situation.”

For more information about the Sunflower Programme: www.sunflowertrust.com

To read more Parenting Success tips:
www.parentingsuccesscoaching.com