Easing those back-to-school worries – Joanna Murphy

As schools and nurseries reopen, much of the familiar “back to school” routine begins, and as a parent to three daughters I have now been through it countless times. This year marks my last back to school experience as my youngest daughter begins S6, and although each new year comes with anticipation, excitement, as well as some nerves about what it may bring, this year feels different to any we have experienced before.

A Back to School guide could be just what you need (Picture: John Devlin)
A Back to School guide could be just what you need (Picture: John Devlin)

I’m sure for many of you, like me, in the back of your mind you might be thinking “what will it look like now in schools, and what will it mean for me as a parent?” As children settle back into their school routine, many of us might be unsure about what they will be facing this year, and how best we can support them.

It has been a difficult time for many of us, and I think parents have had a particularly challenging time. Despite the challenges, there are some positives to take from the last few months. I have been heartened to see the importance of parental engagement being recognised. The circumstances have provided an opportunity for parents to become more empowered in their children’s learning, and this should not stop as they return to school or nursery.

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Our children’s wellbeing is first and foremost, and teachers will be focused on ensuring they settle back in comfortably and happily. It is parents who have been through the ups and downs of the last few months with their children, and therefore it is vital that schools continue to embrace parental involvement, working in partnership with us to deliver the support, learning, and encouragement that our children need.

Joanna Murphy, Chair of National Parent Forum Scotland

At the National Parent Forum of Scotland, we represent parents at a national level, ensuring that the parent voice is heard in the decisions made about education. We are an organisation of 32 volunteer parent representatives, one for each Local Authority in Scotland. We understand that all families are unique and face different challenges.

After such a long time at home, it is natural to worry that your child might be behind in their learning. “Should I have made them study more?” or “will their friends have learned more over the break?”. It is important to remember that all children are individual and will have had different experiences during the school closures. We encourage you to speak to your school, let them know your concerns, and inform them of any particular support you would like to be put in place. If you are worried about what they might have missed, it can be helpful to reflect on all of the things that they have learnt and experienced in their time off, that they perhaps would not have if they were in school.

As children find their feet, it’s important to allow room for them to relax outside of school. We’ve heard from some parents that motivating your child to learn can be a challenge, so don’t worry if it is hard to get them to settle back in to learning straight away. Showing them that you’re interested in their learning and that you’re proud of what they’re doing, can help them feel more enthusiastic.

The most important thing we can do is make sure that they’re safe, and that they know we are here for them. Having open and honest conversations with your child can help to ease anxieties for both of you. Adjusting to school or nursery life will not happen overnight, and children need to know that it’s normal to feel uneasy.

This can be daunting, so I encourage you to explore our Back to School Guide that provides advice and helpful resources. You can also visit Parent Club, which has created a new Back to School and Early Learning and Childcare digital hub which includes a range of FAQs on the official guidance, as well as advice from teachers and experts to help parents support their children as they prepare to return to the classroom, nursery and other childcare settings. You can find this at www.parentclub.scot/startback.

So, next time you are waving your children off to school, remember that it is natural to feel nervous, you are not alone, and the journey to normality will take patience, understanding, and teachers, parents, and children all working together in partnership.

You can join the discussion on Facebook or Twitter, or sign up to our newsletter. https://www.npfs.org.uk/join-our-mailing-list/ Your voice is important to us.

Joanna Murphy, Chair of National Parent Forum Scotland

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