As parents, many of us have ticked the usual tasks off the to-do list that signify the start of a new academic year - shopping for uniform and shoes, helping your child to choose a new school bag and making sure they have everything they need in their pencil case.
But schools have been busy throughout the summer preparing for the arrival of their new charges and there is plenty that parents can do to make sure their child settles in and makes good progress - in the first few months of the school year and beyond.
Broaden their horizons
Research has shown that getting involved in co-curricular activities can boost a child's achievement so it is well worth familiarising yourself with all that is on offer at your child's school.
There are many advantages to encouraging your child to try something new. Whether they are interested in taking up fencing, going along to the chess club or joining the school orchestra, it can be a great way for them to meet new friends, uncover a fresh talent and generally build their confidence.
Most schools make information about the different clubs they run readily available to parents online, where you can find a wealth of detail on the education your child's school provides. It is worth taking a look at your child's timetable too - if the chess club falls on a Monday evening, straight after double maths, you might just want to encourage them to take up something creative to keep a nice balance in their lives.
If your child attends a fee-paying school and has a particular academic strength or talent, in sport, drama or music for example, be sure to check the bursaries and scholarships application deadlines and make an appointment for a chat with the school bursar. Independent schools are keen to attract and retain talented students and they can offer a great deal of support to families that require help with fees.
Help them to be more independent
One of the challenges children (and parents) can encounter in the first few weeks and months of term is getting used to a changing timetable. Some schools run a two-week timetable, which can be confusing if you are not used to it.
Schools sometimes alternate between subjects such as cooking and design technology from term to term during the school year too. Your child's school will have already done all the hard work in arranging when to teach what subjects so encourage your child to check their timetable regularly as this is a great way to help them become more independent learners - this is often made available online through a student and/or parent area on the school website.
You will likely also find the school calendar here, which should include details of inset or occasional days. This is useful for families that have childcare to arrange in advance. And why not look at the dates for the Christmas play nice and early so you can book the time out in grandma and grandpa's calendar?
Supporting your child from home
Online homework diaries are becoming increasingly popular in many schools. Some schools use software that allows you to see clearly what homework has been set and by whom, in the different subjects your child is studying.
You should be able to see all the due dates for assignments too, along with other information and resources relevant to the task. This is really useful for helping them to manage their time, complete assignments within the deadlines given and keep on top of their homework commitments to ensure they get off to the best possible start.
Know your child's school
Take the time to digest important policies your child's school makes available, whether this is details of uniform, how issues with attendance and behaviour are managed or what to do if you want to take your child out of school for a medical appointment. Regardless of whether this is your child's first or final year at the school, things can often change in education so make sure you are up to date with the latest information.
Another essential job is to ensure you keep your contact details and other information the school holds on file updated with the latest details, such as address, phone number, medical information and notes on any special educational needs. Schools I speak to often stress that this should never be a once a year activity for parents.
Whatever stage your child is in their education, the more knowledgeable you are about their school, the calmer and happier your child will be as they settle in and progress through the academic year.
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