As we rapidly approach the end of a rollercoaster of an academic year, parents will be starting to think about what happens in September. Whether your child is moving from nursery to reception, or from year six to year seven, the transition will be very different to years gone by.
Adapting to a new environment, for most parents and their children, is a big step. The uncertainty of new and changing guidelines in the face of covid-19 are adding to existing anxieties.
For most children, moving on in their education would have meant school visits and sessions in schools to get to know their new teachers and to become familiar with their new environment. The arrival of covid-19 has meant that we need to look at different opportunities, which can, although in different forms, still help to ensure our children settle as smoothly as possible for the new start of term in September.
Thanks to modern technology, schools can offer a great deal of reassurance to parents and children. It is important they understand that their school will be able to support them during this difficult time. In some settings it may be possible for schools to set up video calling, to take the place of “meet-the-teacher” meetings or onsite visits that would have taken place in the coming weeks. These meetings are a useful tool, where important information can be exchanged between school and parents.
YouTube video tours are a great way of allowing children to become familiar with new buildings and surroundings, taking away some of the fear of the unknown. These can be especially helpful for our vulnerable children, who may need extra support during these unsettling times.
Video technology can also allow teachers to introduce their faces to their new classes, obviously following all safeguarding guidelines. If video recordings are not possible, voice recordings or voiced-over PowerPoints can also have impact. We know that children thrive on continuity and hearing a familiar voice may help to settle their nerves.
Inviting parents to Zoom meetings or other online forums can help to begin the building of home-school partnerships and form foundations of school communities with parents. It may even be possible to set up a Q & A session for parents to voice any concerns or questions they may have. These questions and answers can then perhaps be published on school websites or in weekly newsletters.
Although many of our parents will feel unable to totally support their children during their move, these feelings can be negated if they are equipped with the right information. There are activities schools can suggest for parents to carry out with children that will support their wellbeing, while being mindful that many parents are still working from home and may have limited time.
Ultimately it is important to remember all our children will be in the same boat. Schools and parents are striving to make the move to a new school as smooth as it can be. We can support schools by ensuring our children have as much routine and structure as possible in their day.
We are all riding the waves of change together and by keeping an open mind we will stay upright on our surfboards.
Sarah Jacobs is wellbeing practitioner for the Jewish Community Academy Trust