No doubt some of you will have recently received the schedule for your childrens’ nursery and reception year starts at your primary schools and I’m interested to hear your thoughts about it.
I won’t mention which school at this stage but I’d imagine they are all very similar and our term starts on 4/5 Sept with two inset days and with my child’s first day on the Friday 8th because she’s among the oldest. I get why they do a staggered start with the youngest first and I’m fine losing a couple of days, but it is then followed by another full 2 weeks of half days before you get a full day on 25th (3 weeks after the start of term!).
I also understand that building up to a full school day may be advantageous for some of the children – perhaps those who are youngest in their year or those who haven’t been to nursery away from their parents before – but I totally fail to see why this needs a whole fortnight and why parents aren’t offered any choice!
The school justifies this by saying staff time is needed to conduct home visits in the first week but I am struggling with the maths that this implies. Home visits are needed for 60 kids and were told should take no longer than 20 mins. If you add 5 minutes for walking between appointments that’s 1,500 minutes (school catchment area is 300 yards and they have said they’ve grouped appointments by proximity), which is 25 hours. Assuming an 8.5 hour day, that’s 3 days each for two people and only half that if only one teacher attends the meeting. How this squares with the time available is beyond me.
Myself and several of the parents in this intake don’t want a home visit because our kids have a) been at the nursery that is part of the school for the whole year and are familiar with the dining hall, playgrounds etc b) met her new form teacher at an introduction day many of us went to a few weeks ago. Had the school had the sense to ask parents if they wanted a visit, they could have used their resources more efficiently and offered parents who wanted one, an earlier FT start. In these straightened times for school funding, I’m not impressed resources are being wasted in this way.
Anyway, if you’ve read this far, we’re getting to the nub of the matter. Interested to hear what the rest of the parents at my school thought, and having heard the dismayed views of a few, at such a long ‘settling in’ period, I sent out an email yesterday.
The response I got was pretty much 50/50 split between those who said they are fine with it, pointing out the benefits of a gentle introduction and those who thought it was a nightmare and going to cause them considerable difficulty.
Now I might be wrong but I doubt it, and suspect that many of those replying to say the system worked fine for them fall into a number of fairly privileged camps – those lucky enough to have a nanny, those lucky enough to have only one parent working or those of sufficient means that a load of extra child care costs doesn’t impact them at all. And then I started thinking, well that’s not really fair at all is it? You have a policy here that makes life difficult for the lowest paid among us. Some of the responses I got sounded really quite distressed at the prospect of juggling work/study and childcare over this period, and I totally felt their pain. Some very fairly and equitably said words to the effect of ‘this works fine for me because of my circumstances but I can see how it might be awful for some people and would happily support a revised arrangement that suits everyone’, which is a great attitude.
At the other end of the spectrum you had people blithely saying the system was ‘perfect’ and ‘works for all’. Er well no it’s doesn’t. Not unless by ‘all’, you mean the privileged groups I’ve described. Perhaps this individual meant ‘People like us’ when referring to ‘all’.
Anyway, those from outside these privileged groups seemed very grateful to have someone willing to fight their corner, so I intend to put as much pressure on the school as possible to rethink how it deals with this.
So, in summary, I’m not suggesting we dispense with any of the sensible settling in measures which are widely used across primaries, but that it shouldn’t be beyond the wit of any school to recognise varying needs among the families attending and respond appropriately. Let’s say half the kids’ parents wanted full time from the middle of week 2 (in this case the 13th Sept), and the other wanted PT until the 25th, would that be so hard to offer? I don’t think so.
It strikes me that this 'tradition' for want of a better word, is one of those things that ‘has always been like this’, in fact for so long that everyone’s given up questioning whether it’s actually a good idea or not, like smoking indoors was for a long time.
For the record, it’s a great school, the staff are wonderful, kind and warm and I’m very grateful my kids will be going there. It’s just a shame that this particular policy seems designed with its wealthiest parents in mind and punishes those of more modest means.
Would be grateful for all or any comment on this from teachers, parents, education administrators, whoever. Even if this does little to affect the autumn process this year, if enough people think this is unfair and needs changing, perhaps we might get an improved process in future? One can only hope…