Ask the new school…
What information can I get for you ahead of time?
Schools do of course pass on all important information but there is often a delay. A child can be in school for a couple of weeks, before the old school sends through the information, and this can make a big difference to how they settle in. It’s not schools being disorganised. The old school generally won’t pass on the paperwork until they know that the child is on roll elsewhere. A child is on roll when the unique pupil number (UPN) has been transferred so any delay with this and there will be a delay with the handover. You may be able to help by getting some information together.
What topics have you just covered and what will you be starting?
No need to get a full set of plans for the previous year, that won’t make for great bedtime reading! But do ask what general areas have been covered during the previous term. Again, take a look at the website, search for curriculum maps or overviews and you should see the topics. If the class are then due to start a topic that your child has just done, tell them. This doesn’t have to be an issue and the curriculum won’t change but at least they have a heads up that your child will already have some of the knowledge. Maybe they can be used as an ‘expert’, they can share some of their previous learning. This not only helps with selfesteem but will go some way to preventing them from getting bored and switching off!
Can I see the maths policy?
Maths is perhaps where lots of moves can have the biggest impact. So much of maths relies on having solid foundations, lots of practical and hands on experience and when there are gaps a child can experience difficulties later on as the work gets progressively harder. It may be worth asking for an overview of the specific maths areas to be covered for the term. Compare this to the areas the previous school have passed on and highlight any overlaps or gaps. If you can see that, for example, adding fractions is coming up but your child hasn’t yet covered fractions, then you have the opportunity to ask how it will be taught and gather some ideas as to how you can get some extra practice in at home. Most schools will have a calculation policy, clearly outlining the step by step approach they teach. Ask for this.
How are children grouped?
Many schools have moved away from the traditional way of grouping children by ability recognising that this labeling can be detrimental to progress and self-esteem. Grouping by ability is easier for the adults but not necessarily better for the children but all schools are different.
If it is by ability, ask how will my child be assessed initially?
This is important so that you can be prepared. If it’s done as a one to one and you know your child takes a while to ‘warm up’ you can let them know, if it’s a test and they get very nervous, again you can say. If it’s based on independent work, maybe you have some examples you can pass on from the previous school. It is also worth exploring how flexible these groups are. Good practitioners should acknowledge this. Same with writing, a ‘weak’ writer shouldn’t be judged on this in the other areas. All conversations worth having.
Can I see a copy of the end of year expectations?
For example, if they are expected to end the school year knowing certain times tables, find out what these are. If they need to be reading a certain number of sight words, get these, make some games and have a play at home to practice.
Is the handwriting policy different to the school you’re leaving?
If it differs, even slightly, you can practice at home.Finally…
All of these may seem trivial but can all impact on self-esteem in a big way: Always be prepared to fight your child’s corner. You are their best spokesperson. If they have additional needs that aren’t being met don’t feel you can’t go in and talk about it. A school year passes so quickly! If you have a niggling concern at the beginning don’t sit and wait. Before you know it a term will have passed and your small niggle becomes a big worry! Any support given means that your child can function more effectively in class.