“I just want my phone call!” No I haven’t been imprisoned, this is me talking out loud in the office, waiting for my phone call from Holiday Club, where my daughter has gone for the first time (having just turned four). As part of settling in, our Club Co-ordinators call each new parent/carer to update them on how their child is doing on their first day in club.
Starting big school is exciting. It’s an experience filled with anticipation from parents or carers and children alike. We thought we would do something a bit different, and consider the big occasion from the perspective of a parent and their child.
From the first step on the journey all those months ago of assessing schools, making a first choice, changing your mind, speaking to a friend, changing your mind, going back to your first choice to making a decision, and more importantly, receiving news of your child’s school place, it’s a journey which instead of providing answers, brings new surprises and questions. You might be feeling a bit bombarded with information, schools have lots to let you know, parenting websites are full of tips and friends full of useful advice.
A big apology to all the dads out there, we have written this from the female perspective; but we hope it will provide a bit of reassurance to everyone with a child starting Reception in September. The characters in our story are Melaine and her son, Max.
Max is nearly 5. We know this because he tells everyone he knows that he is nearly 5. Max is also starting school in September. We know this because Max also tells everyone he knows that he is starting school in Sepember. Max is mostly excited about starting school. He walks past his new school every day on the way home from nursery. Max’s favourite people at nursery are Mia who likes colouring and can write her own name, Toby who likes trains and his key worker, Martha.
Melanie is a bit anxious. Max is her first child to start school. She got her first choice school, but the nagging fears that she has not picked the right school have refused to go away. She keeps reminding herself that she liked the vibe of the school and all her friends have told her that is the most important thing.
Max is not really aware of vibes. Max is a bit sad. Mia and Toby (who, he has noted, indignantly, “don’t even play with each other”) are going to a different school. Max has known Martha since he was 6-months old. She knows he does not like butter in his sandwich and never gives him food he doesn’t like.
Melanie has changed their route home from nursery, and her and Max now ‘walkscoot’ past Max’s new school every day. They both peer a bit anxiously through the railings at children playing in the playground. Max has decided he is going to wave at the children. He decided this 3 days ago, but has not yet managed to do more than lift his hand off his scooter.
Melanine has been invited to a new Reception parent event at the school. Apparently all the parents go, and they find out loads of information.
Max is excited. His grandma is coming to babysit. She always lets him stay up late and sometimes she brings him sweets.
The new Reception parent event is packed. Melanie did not expect to see a room full of adults sitting on infant sized chairs. As she lowers herself onto a tiny chair, she asks herself how everyone else seems to know each other. The Head Teacher introduces the Reception Teachers and Teaching Assistants. Melanie is relieved, Max is in Miss Wilkes’ class and she seems lovely. Melanie listens to all the information, lots about home school partnership, school uniform and school dinners. And, finally information about the After School and Holiday Club. She has a pack full of papers and plans to read them over the weekend.
Max is doing a drawing. His Mum has told him he needs to draw a picture of everything he likes. He has tried to write his name. He has done a good ‘M’ but gets the ‘a’ a bit wrong. The ‘x’ is easy, it is like a kiss. His Mum asked him what part of the picture was. He was a bit surprised, it is clearly his favourite teddy, Floppy. He is pleased when his Mum writes ‘Floppy’ under the drawing. This picture is Max’s best ever picture. He is pleased, he has done it for Miss Wilkes.
Max likes Miss Wilkes. His Mum took him to school. Miss Wilkes was there. Miss Wilkes is kind. She knew Max’s name and she let him play with the sand. There were other children there. Max liked Jasper.
Melanie is worried that Max’s drawing is not good enough. She knows he can write his name properly. She thinks about asking him to do it again. She has bought Max’s school uniform. She thinks it might be a bit too big, but thinks he will grow into it.
Max has just tried on his school uniform for the first time. He feels like a big boy. He does not know why it has made his mum cry. He wants to play in it, but his mum has told him he needs to keep it clean.
Melanie is worried about booking Max into After School Club. Even though he has been going to nursery full time, she is concerned the day might be a bit long for him. She called the club to check availability and they told her lots of Reception children go to the club. For the first few weeks they have lots of quiet activities and all Reception children have a key worker. She feels re-assured by this information.
Max has said goodbye to Martha. Martha shed a few tears. Max shyly gave her a card he had made. Melanie took Max to the park expecting he would be sad about leaving nursery, but he seemed much more interested in a slug he found on the path. Melanie was aghast when she spotted Max poking it with a stick.
The school holidays are nearly over and Melanie can’t stop thinking about Max’s first day at school. She has had to re-arrange her working hours. The first two weeks at school are very strange hours. The school has said it helps the children to settle in.
Max is worried about butter in his sandwiches. Martha never gave him butter. He is worried the school might make him eat butter.
Melanie can’t work out why Max is suddenly less keen on starting school. She is making him a sandwich when he suddenly shouts “I don’t like butter”. They have a conversation and Melanie re-assures Max she has told the school he does not like butter, and reminds him that now he is a big boy he can tell Miss Wilkes himself.
It’s the first day of school. Max is properly wearing his school uniform for the first time. His mum takes a picture. He is smiling proudly. He has a bag that his Mum says is a book bag. He does not know why it is called a book bag, it does not have any books in it. It contains the picture he made for Miss Wilkes. He tries to be brave as he walks to school with his mum. His Mum reminds him that he likes Miss Wilkes and he will see Jasper again.
Melanie takes Max to his classroom. “Hello Max” says Miss Wilkes to the relief of them both. “You liked playing with the sand, do you want to play with it again?” “Bye Max”, says Melanie with a tear in her eye. “Give me a kiss goodbye”. Max runs over, gives her a kiss and heads towards the sand without a backwards glance.
Max is going to go to the After School Club for 3 days a week. His Mum has told him they can pop in for a visit before he starts going to the club. It feels a bit strange going into the After School Club with his Mum. The After School Club is run by a man called Dan. All the children love Dan. Dan is cool. Dan travels to work on a skateboard. Max knows this because he was introduced to Rosie, in Year 3. The first thing Rosie told Max is Dan has a skateboard. Rosie wants a skateboard. So does Max.
Dan was worried he would miss the Year 6 children. He had known them since they were in Reception. Unlike anyone else in the school, he has seen them grow, mature and flourish. Each time some children in Year 6 leave, Dan is certain the new Reception children will not be as good. He looks up and sees a boy and his Mum talking to a member of the team. He walks towards them. “Hello, I am Max, and I want a skateboard like yours” says Max. Dan smiles. These Reception children are going to be great.