The whole run up to starting school was nerve-wracking. Also incredibly lengthy. Schools may have an established routine for welcoming new students each year; first time parents however have no idea what to expect when their first born starts school. That’s at the best of times.
Here in the UK, when starting primary school, we view schools in November, submit applications in January, hear in April. Then we have a further two months wait for a trickle of information to slowly come through. At this point, we are left with barely two month’s notice to put in our flexi-work requests at work and book in school clubs. These may have broken up for the year or be already at capacity. Then there is the settling in stage, which for us meant an actual school start at the end of September, leaving us to navigate a lack of childcare, a grand total of 16 hours of school throughout September, as well as two full time jobs.
By now you can tell that for the planner in me, this was a walk in the park. Not. 🤣 Crikey, I plan 80% of our annual family holidays by November the year prior. I do project management for a living. Being at the mercy of school planning and their timelines was somewhat of an adjustment.
Of course none of 2020 went to plan! 😅 With the world reeling of Covid-19 news, uncertainties, fears; with schools closures from March, parents, existing and incoming were left with questions, home learning to navigate. That is if home learning even was in place. And praying to all that is dear for understanding employers to offer flexibility.
Schools themselves faced one of their toughest years. The focus very, to me, seemed to be: existing students, change management, teacher unions.
For incoming students, in the name of social distancing:
- introductory meetings with teachers – cancelled
- Teddy Bear picnics for children to meet their future class mates and friends in an informal setting – cancelled
- Breakfast and after school clubs – cancelled
- School hours changed to introduced staggered school starts. These were changed and adjusted, repeatedly as schools learned.
Families starting school in 2020 were to go in blind. That was, if school was to start at all? And if it did, which year groups would return?
Would parents even feel confident in returning their children to school, with the pandemic still in force?
THE TOLL OF ISOLATION
I remember looking at our boy; only four years old. He’d been out of nursery for five months and as an only child he had not had any contact with other children. Of course we pulled together as a family. Support, education, play, outdoor activities throughout. But a child playing with a parent and a child playing with another child are two very different things. The pandemic with its continued lock down was taking a toll on both his emotional and physical wellbeing. By the end of those first three months of lock down he was struggling.
This coincided with his first ever move to a new home in a new area. Unlike his nursery friends, he’d be the only child to go to a different school. For a four year old this was a brand new start in the midst what was becoming a tough year for us as a society.
It takes a village
Being a Brighton mum, I’m lucky to be part of an amazing community of local mothers and there is one place we connect, meet and support each other: The BN Mummy Club on Facebook. We guided each other through the school application process, provided feedback on schools, shared lock down tips and created groups for each schools reception intake. Here we had a first opportunity to connect with the parents of our children’s soon to be peers.
With a little initiative, conversation was quickly struck with fellow school parents as we waited for confirmation of which class our children would be allocated to. From here class WhatsApp groups were set up and initial park meet ups, in line with regulations at the time, organised.
Over the course of three weeks we had set up three meets, each attended by three to six families, giving both parents and children opportunity to meet and connect. I remember that first meeting: three mums and three kids. Each child sitting their mother’s lap, clinging onto us for comfort. As the ice was broken and connections made, Littlen stood up, picked up his ball and walked up to his soon to be new friend. With the ease of making friends that children have, he held out his ball and asked: “Do you want to play?”
The rest is history. He made three of his best friends during those initial meetings. I made new friends too and established a network of class parents who all support each other and make the daily school run that little less rushed; that little more friendly.
After all, primary school will be the next 7 years of our lives…
STAY SAFE, NOA XOXO
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