The Week Ahead 28th August 2020
The start of any new school year is a time of anticipation and excitement. For most of our community, it will of course have come as a great relief to be back in school, in the company of the friends and teachers who enrich their lives. It can, though, also be a time associated with a sense of anxiety, often on the part of a child starting a new school for the first time. However welcoming a school is, for some children and their parents it can still be a stressful experience. This is an entirely natural reaction – as an adult, think back to your first day of a new job, or the time you started life at university. By recognising this emotional response to a new environment and being armed with the mental tools to cope with the unfamiliar surroundings, pupils and their parents can quickly settle into a happy school routine.
If you or your child is experiencing some anxiety, the following tips may help to ease the situation.
The first step, as I said above, is to recognise the symptoms of this anxiety. There may be physical manifestations – a faster heart rate, a loss of appetite and trouble sleeping are common features – and there may be marked changes to a child’s behaviour. Some anxious children become more reluctant to be parted from a parent or grandparent at the drop off point in the morning. Others cry or become distracted when packing school bags or thinking about school. If this is happening, recognise it for the response that it is, as in this way it becomes easier to manage.
Understand that such anxiety is perfectly natural. For many pupils, this is their first day at school. For others, the emotional turmoil in the wake of the coronavirus epidemic has left an impression that schools are not safe places, despite all the physical evidence to the contrary. Others, particularly our examination candidates, face a year of significant pressure to succeed.
Take the time to talk to your child about their experiences at school. Beware the pitfalls here, though. You may find yourself losing patience, or inadvertently dismissing their fears because you do not share them. Listening in such a context is even more important than talking.
You do not always need to solve the issue for your child. In most cases, simply talking through a concern is enough for a child with anxiety to be able to contextualise it and cope with it. Helping your child understand that you take them seriously, however inconsequential you may feel the cause to be, is often sufficient reassurance. Overreacting is also unhelpful – you may trigger deeper alarm in a child if you see every setback as a crisis. By being mindful of your own response, by providing a listening ear and a calm approach, you will help soothe your child far more effectively.
Talk to the school and your child’s teacher. Maintaining an open dialogue helps the school-home partnership work collaboratively to help a child settle in school. Teachers understand nerves at the start of a new school year – even the most seasoned professional will admit to having butterflies in the stomach once the new term looms large – so you will always be met with a sympathetic response.
The vast majority of children will experience nervousness and anxiety at some stage of their school lives. These are natural reactions to a sense of change or the unfamiliar, but they need not become a crippling condition. By recognising the symptoms early, listening carefully and providing a contextual framework in which they can learn to manage their reaction to such moments, children (and adults) can learn to develop a defence against these moments in their lives. Aside from helping young people start a new school year productively, growing this sense of mindfulness and self-awareness can provide lifelong benefits.
If you would like to learn more about helping your child to understand their emotions and develop some techniques for dealing with moments of acute anxiety, please contact the school. We have a number of specially trained colleagues to help with counselling, wellbeing and coaching. The key school leader in this area is Mr Toby Roundell
(email@example.com). He can help allocate the right person to deal with your question or concern.
This week’s Meet the Master slot is open to parents of pupils in the Nest. If you would like to attend, please confirm via email with Ms Emma Shi (firstname.lastname@example.org) by Wednesday 2nd September.
Parent briefings are held on Wednesday mornings usually from 0900hrs-1015hrs. Parents will have the chance to engage with the school in sessions that cover all aspects of your child’s education, from the Early Years to A Levels and university admissions.
This week there will be a range of parent briefings on how we assess and use assessment information within the various parts of the school. Assessment strategies, scales and systems are modelled on Wellington College in England and global best practice. By attending, you will gain an insight into both the formal and informal methods we use to measure progress and attainment, as well as how we track pupils to make sure that they are challenged and supported. We look forward to seeing you at these events.
The timings for the various parts of the school are as follows:
Nest: 1000hrs – 1045hrs
Each session will comprise a brief presentation for around 20 minutes followed by an opportunity to ask questions. Sessions will be recorded, and a link to the meeting will be shared on Monday.