Settling Back Into School Life

Children generally follow their parents’ emotions, and if it’s anxiety that’s dominating you as a parent, your children may not feel very comfortable going back to school. Hence, it is advisable for parents to keep calm and trust the schools. Schools prepare to welcome back students in advance. They make sure that students settle back into the classroom easily and effortlessly after a long summer break.

In our feature we have got all the queries on how schools welcome children back answered, including some expert advice from educational professionals on how parents can prepare themselves and their children for going back to school.

First day of term and how schools welcome back students
From having hands on staff to answer all queries from students and parents, to having interactive sessions to introduce new courses, the school staff prepare themselves to settle the students back into the classrooms.

Hands on staff to answer all questions
Samantha Kleinschmidt, Parent Relations Executive, Kings’ School Al Barsha said, “The first day of the new school year is always buzzing with excitement. Our leadership team is at the school gates to greet both new and existing parents, and direct them where they need to be. Myself, and the rest of the support team at the different school reception areas, are also on hand to help with any questions that new parents may have, and to welcome new children to the school and their classrooms.”

Introduce students to the new courses
Fiona McKenzie, Director, Gabbitas Education Middle East said, “Teachers are well used to helping children cope with the first few days of term and will have spooned their lessons accordingly. Time will be spent introducing existing pupils to their new courses and helping new children get orientated to their new environment.”

Interactive games & activities
Jodie Eardley, Assistant Head of Early Years at Uptown School said, “Our Orientation Day helps students ease into school life. Many games and activities are planned by the teachers to help the students get to know their new class and surroundings.”

Principal Andrew Prosser at Dubai Heights Academy said, “For all of our current students we run a series of transition days so they can meet the new teacher and spend some time in their new classroom. This helps settle the nerves on the first day back. We send all of our current students on their summer holidays with a pack to help them prepare for the new school year. The statistics on learning loss over the summer holidays are alarming with up to 2.6 months of maths skills lost and 2 months of reading skills. It only takes 2-3 hours of work per week to help prevent this learning loss and make sure that the students are in the learning zone when they return to school.”

Special preparations for FS1 students
Since kids do not like surprises, schools plan play-dates before they start formal education to make them feel familiar with their new surroundings in advance.

In-school play dates before the school year
Samantha Kleinschmidt of Kings’ School Al Barsha said, “Before the school year starts, we arrange in-school play dates for our new FS1 students. This gives the children a chance to see their classroom and meet their classmates.”

Jodie Eardley of Early Years at Uptown School said, “Before the summer break, Early Years families are invited to our 'Come and Play' mornings where new students are able to explore and interact with their new school environment. Families are able to meet and get to know each other, creating a sense of community and belonging even before the first day of school. During the first few weeks of school, teachers work closely with parents as partners to transition the students into school life comfortably and confidently.”

Parent partnership programme
Jaya Ramesh, Academic Supervisor Primary Section, Global Indian International School, Dubai said, “Parent Partnership Programmes are conducted once a month to make children feel supported by school staff and parents both.”

Parent contact time in the first few weeks
Fiona McKenzie of Gabbitas Education Middle East said, “For FS1 students this can be a particularly stressful time of year, although they may be excited about starting their new adventure when they realise it is every day it can seem a bit daunting. There will be lots of playing and getting to know the other children to start with and familiarising them with both the classroom and the wider environment.” Creating homely yet stimulating environment, Marco Longmore, Head Master at Brighton College Dubai said, “A lot of time is invested into the settling in period and parents are involved as much as possible, enabling the Early Years teachers to gather important information about the pupils in their care. Our Early Years environment is homely yet stimulating and pupils are encouraged to have the autonomy to flourish.”

Special programmes for mid-term students
Since, students who move up higher grades are excited to meet their friends, there are a few students who move to Dubai from a foreign country or from a different school. Schools arrange a buddy support system and keep a close watch to help them gradually settle in.

Buddy Support System
Samantha Kleinschmidt of Kings’ School Al Barsha said, “New students that start mid-term are assigned a buddy in their class. Their buddy is responsible for taking them around the school and making sure they are looked after; and this helps put them at ease and make the transition less daunting. In the first few weeks there will also be a meeting between the class teacher and parents, which is a general conversation about how their child is settling in.”

Keep a close watch over students
Jodie Eardley of Early Years at Uptown School said, “Students are welcomed into their new class and given a buddy to help them orientate and make friends. The family are given a welcome pack containing the parent handbook and school information. Teachers communicate closely with parents to ensure the students are happy and settled.”

New social & academic initiatives
Every year schools strive to become better than last year and introduce a number of social and academic activities to nurture the educational environment.

Principal Andrew Prosser at Dubai Heights Academy said, “For the new term we will be exploring the world of Virtual Reality with our new VR Kits. This will enable the children to explore new places that will really help bring our topics alive. We will also be developing our food production skills.”

Jodie Eardley of Early Years at Uptown School said, “ The Early Years will see it's very own EY STEM Lab opening this term giving students access to advanced Lego Education, iPad coding, and open ended problem solving resources. Students will also be excited to see their new colourful, interactive playground flooring.”

Programme for parents
Parents-Teachers sessions
Janecke Aarnaes, Head of Dwight School Dubai said, “Within the first few weeks of school we arrange various sessions for parents to meet the teachers, to learn more about the curriculum, to learn more about the IB programs and to learn more about the role of the Parents Association and volunteer for participation.”

Familarise children with their school bags
Sasha Crabb, Principal of Victory Heights Primary School said, “We send letters to parents educating them on how to start preparing kids for their school life. Parents are advised to take advantage of the meet and greet sessions that the school provides them to understand a day in the life of an FS1 child. We ask parents to invest in a relationship of trust with school. Over the summer prepare your child by getting them familiar with their school bag, lunch box and Tupperware. Getting them to be responsible for their water bottle and cap will make them independent and happier. Let them carry their own bag into school and walk themselves.”

Get children to bed early
Fiona McKenzie, Director, Gabbitas Education Middle East said, “At Gabbitas Education we always advise parents to try and get their children back into some sort of routine before term starts with earlier bedtimes and getting used to rising early again. This can help children survive the first few days. Often children are excited about going back to school and seeing their friends but a new pencil case or a fun new lunch box can add to the sense of excitement at starting a new school year.”

Do not panic and don’t overdo it
Mini Menon, author and teacher said, “While parents prepare children for the schools, it is very important that they do not overdo it. They should place their trust in teachers. The kids will fall in routine automatically in a week’s time. The routine will stabilise as they start going to school as parents don’t need to stress out much!”

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