Welcome to my ‘Minimum Stress Practical Guide to…’ series of blog posts. After a complete rollercoaster of a few months when we had the stuffing knocked out of us, I decided to turn my journey into something positive. Last week I addressed the subject of how to move house with minimum stress. This week I’m looking at how to settle your child into a new school.
When you’re going through a family bereavement, the last thing you want to be doing is thinking about moving your child (who is experiencing grief for the first time ever) from all their friends. But that is what we had to do. And this is what I would advise you to do:
As soon as you know your child will be going to a new school, make contact with the school (or schools). Speak direct with the Head if at all possible, introduce yourself and arrange a short tour WITH your child.
Explain to your child’s current school that you need to take them out of school. We took our daughter to school for morning registration, took her out immediately afterwards and returned her for lunchtime registration, meaning that she was there for afternoon registration and wasn’t marked ‘absent’. We weren’t aware we could do this but the friendly receptionist advised us this could be done.
We were extremely fortunate in many ways. For one, the only school in our new home-town had 2 places in our little girl’s year group. This was a massive relief because I know of people who have been on waiting lists for months.
So, a quick call to the Head teacher and we had arranged an appointment to look around the school. Even though we knew we wanted our daughter to go there – it was a mere formality for us but for our little girl, it was a vital step in the moving school process.
We wanted her to walk the corridors, see the playground, see where she would be eating her lunch, see her new friends ‘in situ’, to feel a part of her new learning environment and to breathe the air.
That same evening as the tour, we applied for a place at the school, submitted the application and waited with baited breath. It seems all local authorities have different processes and our old City Council were quite vague on the whole process. The new Head advised us to apply online through our new District Council, the new school would get an email, which they would then confirm a place was available with the Council and agree a mutual start date with us. Therefore, ensure you know the Local Authority’s process, particularly if you’re moving out of county.
Thankfully, our new Council replied quickly to our submission stating that they needed proof of our new residency. Hmmm, tricky because we weren’t due to move for another week… Luckily, amid the chaos of an imminent house move, we had confirmation from a utility company of our contract. The only issue was that me and our printer/scanner do not get on! It was down to hubby to scan the paperwork in… which he did that same night. ‘Submit’ was pressed again and we waited with baited breath.
Thank goodness we did it there and then because that was the night that hubby fell foul to acute appendicitis. Had we not submitted when we did, it might have been a different story and a much longer wait for our little girl to start at her new school. As it was, we got an email at start of business the very next day with the magical confirmation that our daughter had a place. Next was a phone call to the new Head and confirmation to start straight after half term. That was another relief – both local authorities aligned with term dates, so our little girl would get a desperately needed week’s break at half term. Essential for her given that she was grieving, given that she needed a break from learning and also from a psychological viewpoint; being able to say that she would no longer be needing her old uniform, having a week off and then starting in a new uniform would help her immensely, we decided. And in the main we were right.
Before she would start proper though, we arranged a half day’s settling in. Although we were advised that she could wear her own clothes, we (with the help of Grandma!) sorted out her new uniform so that she would feel ‘normal’ and not stand out.
On her first full day, we were lucky that hubby was on a late shift and so we could all walk to her school together. After we re-introduced ourselves to her new teacher, we swiftly left her to make new friends. Important to let them get on with it, with minimum fuss.
Yes, she had a ‘wobble’ for a few weeks while she missed her familiar environment, she missed her old friends and got used to her new teacher getting up to speed with where she was at with her learning versus where her new class was at. But on the whole she coped exceedingly well. A few months down the line and she is mentioning the same names daily and it is clear that new friendships are being formed. And it’s just lovely to see her skipping her way into school (I’ve even joined her in skipping once – with her permission so as not to embarrass her!) and it’s wonderful to see her confidence continuing to grow, along with her learning 🙂
I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’ve been on a right rollercoaster ride… I need a breather…
How have you handled situations involving new starts with your little one?