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First day at school

Every primary school organises the first day slightly differently and it’s unlikely that the whole class will all start at the same time. You may find that your child begins with shorter days that gradually increase, or that they may not be at school every day during the first week as different groups of children have their first day.

However your school organises things, there’s lots you can do to help make the first day successful.

The night before

  • Get everything ready – double-check that all clothes and bags are labelled, lay out your child’s uniform and have bags packed and ready for the morning. This will leave time for any last-minute talks or perhaps a special breakfast.
  • Talk about the exciting day ahead – remind your child about the fun things waiting for them at school, but also talk them through what to do if they aren’t sure about anything or have any worries (and go over what to do if they need the loo again).

Going to school

  • Leave plenty of time to get there – rushing to get everyone ready and out of the door in the morning is part of being a parent, but getting there nice and early on the first day will help it to be an enjoyable experience for you and your child.
  • Take a photo – well, it’s their first day at school.
  • Say a (quick) goodbye – it’s probably best to keep the goodbye as quick and free from drama as possible. Remind them that you’ll pick them up using language they’ll remember (‘just after you’ve had lunch’ or ‘after story time’) and tell them to enjoy themselves. If your child does become upset, try to remain calm. Stay for a short time and then slip away quietly. The staff team will be very experienced at dealing with upset children, and will soon have your child distracted and busy doing something exciting. The school will always contact you if they remain upset.
  • Say hello to other parents – you might know some of the other parents in the playground already, but if not, do go and say hello. Getting to know other parents can be a great support and depending on who your child makes friends with, you might be seeing a lot of each other over the next few years.
  • Plan something to do – if you don’t have to rush off to work, it can be a good idea to have something planned to distract you from worrying about how things are going. Your child will be having a great time, but you may not.

After school

  • Be prepared for a very tired child– even if your child is used to a long day at nursery, a school day can be exhausting. It’s a good idea not to plan too many activities for after school for the first few weeks. If your child seems really tired, you might want to bring bedtime forward for a few weeks until they adjust.
  • Check their book bag – while lots of schools communicate with parents by email or using special apps, important letters and forms from school are still sent home regularly. You might also find wrappers, discarded fruit and glitter-covered works of art lurking at the bottom of their bag.
  • Be ready for tears and tantrums – this doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s a problem, it’s just that all the excitement coupled with tiredness may mean that they need some extra attention and reassurance for a while.
  • Organise play-dates – over the next few weeks try to arrange opportunities to meet up and play with a wide range of children from the class (if your child feels up to it). One-to-one playtime can help to develop lasting friendships and is particularly important if your child is a little shy or takes longer to settle. It can also be a good opportunity to get to know other parents.
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