On your marks, get set, go!
September 2020 will be a new term like no other – here’s what to expect and how to prepare for your child’s first day at school
The school run. Three little words that evoke panic and excitement in equal measure, even during the best of times. This year, with the huge uncertainty that 2020 has brought, starting school in September seems like an even bigger feat than ever. With parents and teachers across the land hoping that at least some normality resumes for the autumn term, we are here to help you prepare for a very different school year.
What to expect for the new term?
What will school actually be like this September? It’s a question every parent is asking. ‘Staggered pick ups and drop offs, new hand washing stations and year “bubbles” are just some of things we are planning,‘ says reception teacher Sarah Wicks. ‘We will also be doing assemblies differently within the bubbles and with no singing." For September 2020 uniform requirements may also be adapted to suit current times – according to teachers and parents we spoke to many schools have ditched traditional school shoes for now and want kids in clean trainers every day for example – so double check updated uniform requirements with your school. Also, bear in mind that many schools will be adopting a clean uniform everyday policy so blazers and ties have been banned by many schools for now as they can't be washed every day. The humble multi-pack has suddenly become your new best friend.
Plan the first day
Once you’re sure you have their uniform sorted – see our helpful uniform checklist – you’ll want to start planning that all-important first morning. Get everything, including socks, shoes and any accessories, laid out the night before. Show it all to your child and ensure they have tried it on in advance and are happy with everything to avoid a morning meltdown. Better to make any tweaks before the first day and not on that jittery first morning.
‘The first thing to remember is that every reception parent is in the same boat,’ says author and mum-of-three Charlotte Philby, whose new novel A Double Life (£12.99, Borough Press) is out now. ‘Even if they look like they’re sailing through those initial drop-offs, every parent is experiencing the same flurry of emotions in those early days at the school gate. I think it helps to smile as this will signal to other parents that you’re open to passing chit-chat, while reassuring your child at a time when they feel vulnerable.’
Get the kit
The first day of school also means a brand-new PE kit. For exactly the same reasons as with their main school uniform, it’s worth getting their sports kit just right before they start. Ensure their trainers fit perfectly and are easy to put on and take off – Velcro is your new best friend here. Our in-store shoe-fitting service can help, too and if you’re still not keen on heading into store, check out our guide on how to measure kids’ feet at home.
You can’t go wrong with these best-selling polo shirts which many kids wear as their main shirt throughout reception. Happily, all the John Lewis & Partners' schoolwear features handy details to keep both kids and parents smiling. ‘Our latest designs feature clever fabric protection, child-friendly fastenings and reinforced seams, which will keep your little ones comfortable as well as smart,’ says Sian Griffiths, Partner & Assistant Buyer, Schoolwear. ‘Our lasting colour and durable technologies will also ensure their uniform lasts wash after wash throughout the year.’
It sounds silly, but it’s also a good idea to get your own outfit prepared the night before so you can get up and dressed without any delay. After all, you don’t want to get held up rifling through the laundry first thing in the morning looking for clean socks. ‘Anything time-saving is your best friend, so plan your own outfit the night before,’ says author and mum Helen Whitaker, author of The School Run (£8.99, Trapeze). ‘And if you can stretch to it, buy five school shirts for your child as this means no frantic washes during the week when they inevitably come home covered in paint/grass/an unidentifiable stain that you don’t want to examine too closely.’ This will also help you if your school is adopting a clean uniform everyday policy.
That first day can be an emotional moment for both you and your child, so being super-organised will save any extra stress. Whether walking, cycling or driving, leave as early as you can and ensure you’ve packed a lightweight coat for him or her, come rain or shine, so they are prepared for all weather eventualities. Being first at the school gates is preferable to being last and will allow you time ensure that all-important first moment is as calm as can be.
‘I’m naturally disorganised and struggle to get three kids out the door, along with the mass of bikes/scooters/PE kit that are a daily prerequisite,’ says Charlotte Philby. ‘So it’s essential to leave early enough so you don’t arrive flustered and stressed. Leaving 10 minutes earlier is a pain but sets the whole day up in a much better way.’
Happy, relaxed parents hopefully mean happy, relaxed kids. OK, so in reality, we know this doesn’t always translate – but if you feel in control, hopefully your children will feel calmer too. Ensuring the lunchbox is packed and ready to go and school bag is sorted in advance will save a lot of stress. And don’t forget the school name labels.
‘Label everything, even if it’s just in permanent marker on the washing label,’ says Helen Whitaker. ‘In the future you will be grateful when you’re rummaging through a lost property pile of 20 near-identical jumpers.’
All set? Soon that first ever school run will be done and you can sit back have a cuppa and enjoy the silence.
To find out more about the Partners’ children who modelled for this year's back-to-school campaign read In a class of their own.