Sending a child to school for the first time can be a daunting experience for parents. Katie Paynter, Head of Pre-Prep at Prince’s Gardens Preparatory School which opens in September 2020 provides some useful pointers on what to expect during their Reception year.
While it’s natural to feel a little anxious about your child starting school for the first time, the reality is that children adapt to their new routine more quickly than you might expect, settling into their new learning environment and easily adjusting to new expectations.
In Reception, each child has a key person assigned to them – usually their class teacher or a teaching assistant. This person plays a valuable role in supporting your child through their all-important first year, and will spend one-to-one time with them exploring and expanding their interests and aptitudes.
Young children learn holistically, and most of their time in Reception will be spent developing in at least two areas at once. For example, a child playing with sand will be using and improving multiple skills: working with different materials and shapes, quantity and volume; creating imaginative worlds; and boosting their motor skills and strength for writing.
Learning will be through exploration and investigation, participation and creating and thinking critically. Play is instrumental in this approach. For four- and five-year-olds, play can be rather tiring (and messy!) and so be prepared for your child to be a little monosyllabic (and dirty!) when they come home, especially at first. As time goes by, they will gradually let you more and more into their new world.
Most schools use phonics schemes (such as Read, Write Inc. or Letters and Sounds) to help young children familiarise themselves with sounds in preparation for early reading. This can seem daunting at first for any parents unfamiliar with this approach, but the benefits are proven. These schemes use the 44 phonic sounds and 18 diagraphs (the pairs of letters making a single sound) to read and spell out words, progressing gradually, to support your child through the early stages of sound and word familiarisation and then on to reading their first books.
Please do read to your child, and encourage them to read to you. You can use any suitable books, not just those from the phonics scheme, as the broader their exposure to literature, the better. Encourage your child to talk about the pictures, or to make predictions about what’s going to happen next. It is important for your child to enjoy reading, so keep things relaxed, and stop if they begin to feel anxious in any way.
You will probably be asked to fill in a reading diary each time you read with your child. This is a useful communication tool, so please do take the time to make regular entries.
Throughout their time in Reception, your child will be informally observed to assess their learning. You can do this, too, by making brief observations of their progress, achievements and activities at home (often known as ‘WOW observations’). You can then add your WOW observation to your child’s Learning Journey record, which is usually a notebook or online portfolio provided by their school. The online version enables you to log in and see photographs, video clips and observations of your child in their new learning environment.
Most importantly of all, relish this special year ahead with your child: it will pass quickly, so it’s important to cherish every moment that you can!
Prince’s Gardens Preparatory School in Kensington opens September 2020. 4+ assessments take place in January 2020, so please register for your place before 13th December 2019.
Prince’s Gardens Preparatory School
10-13 Prince’s Gardens, London SW7 1ND
0207 591 4620