Back to school

Published

Column by Councillor Rachel Hood, Cabinet Member for Education, SEND and Skills

Back to School - 5 Tips for FamiliesNext week, pupils across Suffolk will head back to school after the six-week summer holidays. I hope that families, and teaching staff have had an enjoyable, relaxing break and are feeling prepared for the new school year.

I want to begin by congratulating students who received their exam results over the summer.

Young people should be very proud of their results, especially after the unprecedented disruption to their learning over the past two-and-a-half years.

The results are a testament to their hard work and dedication as well as the commitment of teaching staff to delivering the best education in a very challenging situation.

I hope that each young person has achieved the results they need to progress to the next stage of their lives. If they have not received the results they expected, there is helpful information at www.thesource.me.uk.

The start of the school year can present challenges for families and schools alike. The prospect of walking back through the school gates after the summer holidays can be exciting and daunting.

While Covid still remains, the days of lockdown are thankfully behind us. However, the pandemic caused widespread disruption to learning and one of the biggest concerns for pupils of all ages has been how it has affected their mental health.

Schools have been working hard to bridge the gap in learning, and to support children and young people where there are concerns about their mental health.

They are addressing these issues in a variety of ways, including:

  • Identifying pupils who need additional one to one support
  • Regular informal assessments
  • Recapping on the previous year’s curriculum to cover things that may have been missed
  • Prioritising practical work that was not possible via remote learning.

We also have a wealth of useful resources and training opportunities aimed at supporting children, young people, families, and school staff on our website. Please visit: www.suffolk.gov.uk/wellbeingeducation.

While many children and young people will be looking forward to going back to school, I know some families may be feeling anxious and that it may feel quite difficult for many children and young people.

There is support out there to help them manage the transition back into school including a suite of top tips for families on the Suffolk County Council website.

These resources have been written by our psychology and therapeutic team and were co-produced with parents.

They include advice for families with primary and secondary aged children, and guidance for families with children who have additional needs and/or anxiety.

Here I have identified five tips I think are important:

  1. Starting conversations about going back to school sooner rather than later will ensure there is time for children to share their worries, think through problems and allow you to find solutions together.
  2. The things we as parents worry about are not always the same as our children so ask them what they need to feel prepared.
  3. Taking small steps to try and introduce routines early is a great way to prepare for the return to school. Bedtimes, waking times and mealtimes may well have changed during the holidays so adjusting these gradually to establish a routine to prepare children for the new school term will help them.
  4. Using visual prompts and timetables and checklists with personalised themes can help with preparation and reduce feelings of worry.
  5. Planning and let them know what to expect on their first day back. Who will be there and what will happen on their first day.

We have been sharing links to these resources on our social media channels and will continue to do so over the next couple of weeks as schools return. I hope that parents find these useful.

I wish children, young people, teachers, and school staff the very best as they return to school.