Starting school: what Year 6 parents think you should know
There's a lot to think (and worry) about when your first child starts school. Will they make friends? Do they need to be able to read and write already? What will the other parents be like? These concerns can feel all-consuming at the time, but before you know it, it'll be your child's last day in Year 6, and you'll be wondering where the time went. We asked the experienced parents of recent primary-school leavers to share the advice that they wish they'd known on the very first day of school.
Year 6 parents' advice for new Reception starters
'Listen to your child read as often as possible. If you can do it as often as you brush teeth, even better. Reward them for doing so well, support them when they are having a bad day and give them as much freedom as they want (and is reasonable), too.'
Katy, mum to Alex, 13, and Toby, 11
'Always send a tissue in their pocket to avoid slimed sleeves! It seems all children copy the child with the forever running nose, regardless of the manners they were taught at home. Have a bottle of headlice lotion in the cupboard, and get a list from the teacher of the names of all of the kids in the class. It makes writing party invitations and Christmas cards much easier.'
Victoria, mum to Chloe, 14, and Evie, 12
'The best way to label school uniform is with a Sharpie pen, and always pack a spare pair of pants in PE bags. Don't buy plimsolls for PE: they're no better than flip flops, so invest in a pair of trainers instead. Remember that teachers like to hear positive stuff, as well as the negative: a thank-you goes a long long way. Oh, and it's a parent's job to teach children to tie their shoelaces and ties, not the teacher's!'
Bel, teacher and mum to Ben, 14, Josh, 11, and Rebecca, six
'Don't get drawn into a competition over reading levels or maths: it will do your child no favours. I've seen so many parents pushing teachers to move their children onto the next level, but they have to know their stuff inside out and any which way. Doing them over and over in lots of different ways might seem like a waste of time, but it doesn't harm them or hold them back – it's good for them.'
Corinne, mum to Jacob, 11
'To be ready for school, your child needs to be able to do things like go to the toilet independently and put their own coat and shoes. They don't need to know how to read, write and do maths before they go. Getting involved in the PTA or governing board is a great way to find out what really goes on in the school, albeit hard work. And be prepared for an exhausted child for most of the first term: don't plan too many after-school activities.'
Kelly, mum to Emma, 12, Ben, nine, and Henry, four
'Never assume that your child is telling the gospel truth about what their teachers have said and done – they're probably telling just as many fibs about what you've been up to at home. When there are problems, always talk to the school, as they should be invested in helping sort them out. Go on at least one school trip – great fun, if exhausting – and always have at least five school shirts, to save yourself the hassle of midweek washing. And never moan about the school on Facebook – it always ends badly.'
Christina, mum to Lara, 12, and Karl, 10
'Get to know the receptionist or school secretary – she will be your friend when your child repeatedly leaves letters at school or forgets their PE kit. Don't stress about homework; if it can't be done in 15 minutes, there's too much of it. And buy the cheapest bags, pens, clothes and coats, as they will surely get lost almost instantly.'
Elaine, mum to Alistair, 13, and Callum, 11
'If you work outside the home be prepared to have to point this out to the school many, many times; there seems to be a worldwide school assumption that there every child has a parent at home all day.'
Megan, mum to Joe, 15, and Katie, 11
'Don't correct your child's homework, or give them too much input, even if the end result isn't perfect. If your child gets it wrong, it's important that their teacher knows they have gaps in their learning, and it's not your job to teach.'
Amanda, mum to Ally, 14, and Zara, 12
'Don't invest too much time in school mummy friends (unless you want to, of course!). There's no obligation to become best mates just because your children happen to share a classroom. And don't panic if your child isn't keen on their teacher, or vice versa – one year with a not-so-good teacher is not a disaster.'
Jackie, mum to Beth, 13, Maisie, 11, and Lara, nine
'If it's an option, sign up to receive school correspondence by text or email, and don't forget to tell school if your phone number or email address changes. Don't assume that your child has brought home all the letters you need to see: if you don't know about something, chances are it's because the letter has been "lost" rather than school not telling you.'
Melanie, mum to Poppy, 11, and Archie, nine
'Put names in absolutely everything, and have a spare of most things. When you're collecting your child from school, be armed with a mental list of everything you need them to bring home because they won't remember unless you do. Take a snack and a drink when you collect them at the end of the day to avoid hungry and thirsty meltdowns, and check their book bags because they may be bringing home letters that they've forgotten all about.'
Emma, mum to Luke, 10, and Owen, eight
'Get involved as much as possible. The primary years fly and I wish I'd done more with my children while they were there. Now they're at secondary school, I'm working too much to be involved, and the children don't want me there anyway!'
Gina, mum to Amy, 12, and Max, 10
Starting primary school: support for parents
There are lots more parents' tips (and celebrity parents' tips!) about starting school in the BBC Starting Primary School resources.