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Starting primary - Staggering vs Full-time from day 1 - dilemma

(30 Posts)
yummymum01 Sun 04-Sep-11 00:21:53

I have a dilemma - my son will be 4yr 2mo when he starts school this week.

The school is taking in 60 new starters (a record year) and they have a policy of starting them all at the same time, on the same day, full time i.e 9am - 3pm, from day one.

I feel uncomfortable about this. My son has only ever been to preschool for half a day. And is an only child, so not overly confident with his peers, but holds his own.

I have tried to prepare him as much as possible - bought 'going to school' story books, made it sound exciting etc.. i've even been giving him his lunch in his new lunch box!

But I'm worried that dropping him in at the deep end, or so to speak, for such long days, with a bunch of strangers will be traumatic for him (he knows none of the children - we couldn't get him into the school with his friends). He met his teacher once at a play session. The teacher that came to visit was a fill-in so not much help really.

We had a problem with him at preschool in the fact that if he got upset it would come out as anger and not tears. His carers had no sympathy for his sobs as no tears came out and he was branded as just having a temper.

I'm thinking about calling the school on Monday, before the Wednesday start. I don't like to rock the boat - I normally run a mile from confrontation - but I feel in this case, as he is so young and unaccustomed to being away from home for such a long time, we should be able to request that he attends part-time, if only for a while so that he can 'get used' to being there.

Any advice? Anyone been in the same situation? I'm trying to be positive, but i know my son, and I know he'll find it hard.

Everyone else I seem to speak to who are sending their kids to other schools, are sending them for half days (not even lunch) for the first week or so.

Thanks for reading (sorry for babbling on).
A worried mum xx

MCos Sun 04-Sep-11 00:28:27

Yikes - why didn't you wait until he is 5??

yummymum01 Sun 04-Sep-11 00:36:13

Hi MCos

Because he is ready for school, academically. Preschool is too boring/not challenging enough for him. He is very bright (I know all parents say that - but he really is). He spent a while sitting on the floor arranging his magnetic letters into words today, spelling out 'Cat' 'Sam' 'Pop' 'Buzz' etc.. (with no help/pushiness from me!). He can count over 100, and was able to complete 3+ jigsaws under the age of 2. He's eager to learn.

It's the social / emotional side of things that I'm worried about.

FWIW DS1 for various reasons started school full-time from day 1. He was fine, the rest of the children were fine - you got the odd one or two who were upset, but they settled down.

DS2 and DD had staggered entries (don't think they were the same - the school seems to change the way it deals with Reception every year!) and it was exactly the same. The majority of the children were fine, a few took longer. No great difference really.

Truthfully I think it would be more of disadvantage to remove him from school when the children he's supposed to be making friends with, and forming bonds with, are staying because he might not deal with a full day. Send him in, trust the teachers, and if he does have problems then look at ways of helping him through it.

It's hard when they start school - when DS1 started Nursery I sat in my car with a book and my mobile for an hour because I was absolutely convinced that he'd not cope without me and they'd have to ring me to collect him. They didn't, and he had a great time without me the ungrateful wretch grin

yummymum01 Sun 04-Sep-11 00:47:07

Hi MrsDmitri

Thanks for your advice. Hope you don't mind me asking, but were your children in full time child care beforehand?

I think children who have been in nursery/preschool full-time may find it easier to adjust - as they've been there/done that, and had to learn to be independent early on...

Mspontipine Sun 04-Sep-11 00:51:17

Yes you do know your son and nobody'll disagree with that grin How does your son feel about it though? You say you're worrying, you feel uncomfortable etc but you don't say what he feels about it?

For any parent having their child start school for the first time (whether pfb or not) it's a huge event. However, children do have a way of taking things in their stride while we would worry and fret about each tiny detail they just get stuck in. You say they're all starting together at the school. Though unusual (IME) they must have their reasons for doing this. They'll also be well prepared for issues as they arise. Many children will not be used to doing a full day, but some may not have been in a nursery setting at all, some will be all dayers. Some may be dropping for the first few days but teachers will watch for this. My ds started doing 2 1/2 days then full time. He was well put out on the 2 days he had to leave his new friends and come home. He would have been way happier to stay. It is so much fun, so exciting, there's so many new friends to make, new toys to play with, he'll have a ball!! If you take him home he'll miss stuff, friendships being formed etc don't make him miss out if unnecessary.

IME keeping my ds would have been holding him back. As he was a December baby therefore an older one in his year he had to watch a large number of his peers at pre-school waltz off to start school when he was only coming up to 4 and he really could have gone then. It was so hard for him waiting a whole year before he could start.

As my ds's 1st day got closer I could tell it was slightly worrying him as he went very quiet about school and didn't want to talk about it much. However, 1st day he trotted in. Said goodbye. Go Mummy!! and got on with it. He amazed me!!

However hard this sounds too, if you're feeling edgy and clingy they do pick up on it. Try hard to not make it a big scarey thing on the day. Excitement fun off you go have a good day and *don't wipe your tears away till you're out of sight" xxx

madhattershouse Sun 04-Sep-11 00:58:25

My oldest was 4.5 when he started school, all children have full days from start, and he locked himself in the loo so no-one could see him cry at lunchtime. Before school he was used to being picked up after lunch at playgroup and struggled with the change. He was physically restrained so I could leave after 3 days at school or he would have followed me home. It was painful but we did it. He is now about to go into senior school and has loved school ever since.It takes just a few days for them to adjust, some take it better than others, but they WILL adjust. Be strong, if you blub your son will too. Good luck! My youngest (of 4) starts on Tuesday, really don't want to be the sad mum crying at "baby starting school"..

No they weren't - they did go to Nursery, but just the usual mornings-only one attached to the school (9 to 11.30) I used to work during the day when DS1 was small (pre-DS2) and he loathed it. He used to cry when I left him and I hated leaving him like that, so I started working evenings so he could stay home with me. That's why I spent the first morning sitting in the car! grin

boardergirl Sun 04-Sep-11 01:09:06

My ds was the same age when she started school and she was FT after 3 half days. I thought about asking for half days but didn't want her to miss out.

I wish I had though cos she got so tired in that first term. She was good as gold at school then massive temper tantrums as soon as she got home!

I don't think she would have missed out socially or academically. My friend send her dd 4 half days and 1 full day for a whole term to a different school where all the others were FT and there were no negative consequences for her. She was ready for FT by Xmas.

I'm sure the school would be understanding, surely they would prefer a happy boy PT for a while than a tired, upset and angry one.

If you are concerned about him making friends why don't you make one half day an afternoon and invite a classmate home

boardergirl Sun 04-Sep-11 01:10:14

Dd I meant -stupid phone!

madhattershouse Sun 04-Sep-11 01:17:17

boardergirl I think all newbies to school are totally worn out after their first weeks at mum had a silvercross pram and put a blanket in the shopping tray, her son slept on the way home by curling up in it!! Tantrums and bad moods are normal as they adjust to a full school day, the fact that they start on a Tuesday here fills me with fear, four full days will wipe out dd2 and be one hell of a shock, the others had 2 or 3 full days before a weekend and they found that hard!

Actually, just to show it doesn't change, DS2 is starting Secondary School on Tuesday and I'm really nervous on his behalf. I know he'll be fine, but won't be happy until he comes back in one piece, with all his belongings and says everything was fine <frets and bites nails>

boardergirl Sun 04-Sep-11 01:41:30

Madhattershouse - I realise that I so think schools should be really flexible with their reception class and allow parents to go PT for a while

If my Dd had been PT for the first half term/ term she would have built up her stamina to cope with 5 full days.

I will definitely consider a PT start for my ds next year even though he is an autumn birthday.

I totally agree with the other poster who say to keep it all about fun and adventure etc in front of your ds. Hide those tears and anxieties as much as you can!

boardergirl Sun 04-Sep-11 01:42:50

Children not parents! Though that would be nice sometimes!

sittinginthesun Sun 04-Sep-11 08:12:49

I do think it is hard, whatever the school do. My DCs' school starts the younger children on half days for the first half term, and lots of parents are unhappy about that.

For every child who was exhausted and ready to go home at lunch time, there was another who was sobbing because they wanted to stay for the afternoon. In fact, the child who found it hardest to settle was one of the younger children who wanted to stay fulltime - she only calmed and settled once she was able to after half term.

I also think that it is far harder for us than the children. They do pick up on how you feel, so if you can act positively, and boost their confidence, I think it must help. With DS1 I made a point of having a lovely snack ready for when they get home, and lots of time to sit and have a cuddle. I was very nervous when he started (again, all his friends were at a different school), but he took to it like a duck to water. Hoping DS2 will be the same on Wednesday.

mrz Sun 04-Sep-11 08:14:13

As a parent of two summer borns (who had attended PT nursery - not linked to the school) and someone who taught reception for many years I can from experience say starting school full time is far harder on the parents than the child.
They will be tired so keep after school and weekends relaxed but for most children "Big" school is an adventure and they thrive.

coccyx Sun 04-Sep-11 08:19:32

All my children went full time straight away. My DD3 is a July baby and never went to preschool/nursery. She is very shy. I was slightly concerned how she would cope but apart from the initial parting , everything was ok. The schools are used to all types of children starting, different ages, backgrounds and experiences. The teachers and assistants were all very aware of the younger ones getting tired etc.

GloriaVanderbilt Sun 04-Sep-11 08:22:30

I'm not sure about whether you can start him part time if the school doesn't normally do this. Someone on MN will know.

What I do know is that you are allowed to delay his starting school until January if you so wish, or Easter if you want as his birthday is in the summer.

I'm deferring mine (who is 4yrs and nearly 3 months) until at least January because he too is only used to half days at preschool and just not ready in other ways. Sure, he'd cope, but I don't want him to have to 'cope'. And he won't find it so hard a few months on.

I think sometimes people are afraid their child will never be ready, they'll miss the window of readiness or something. It's not so.

Ds1 started reception on half days, it was Ok - as soon as he went to full days after a few weeks, well I knew he wouldn't cope as he was still sleeping every afternoon. He didn't cope!

He was physically and mentally overwhelmed and so miserable every day after school, that we persuaded them to let him stay part time for much longer...however they didn't like this and it got so complicated that we took him out and sent him into year one after a long break.

He coped fine in year one. That year made so much difference. I didn't feel I was abandoning him without enough help for 6 hours a day.

I hope this helps a bit, seriously, you know your own child and if he's ready or not. I have a feeling they must allow you to start him part time if you want to - but it's definitely worth speaking to them, not confrontationally but in a spirit of mutual cooperation in the best thing for your child.

Greythorne Sun 04-Sep-11 08:36:38


I know how you feel, most mums have been there. Even the ones whose "babies" are September babies (so already 5 when starting) and who have been in pre-school and thrived there. It is natural.

I would say, remember this is the first time you are doing this so it is new and alarming, but for the school, they have handled this process for hundreds, maybe thousands of children. They are trained to handle this situation and they understand the pitfalls. If they have chosen full time from day 1, there's probably a good reason. They may feel that staggered starts drag out the pain and cause more upset over a longer period.

The thing is, you say your son is ready for school "academically" but school is more than academics. Your son DOES need to be ready emotionally and socially to thrive. It won't be enough for him to be intellectually ready. Only you can really know if he can handle the social side, but given that you have enrolled him, you probably do feel he is quite ready. If this was more than normal jitters, you would almost certainly have delayed his entry or sought some outsode advice. Sounds like you are jittery and all will go well.

We live in France and I stuggled A LOT with the system here; my Dd1 started full time school at 2.9 years. Gulp. I panicked and the first few weeks were not easy, as perhaps they won't be for you, but now, two years later, I can look back fondly on my panic and scepticism.

Good luck. Remember, most children survive the first few weeks and go on to love Reception.

yummymum01 Sun 04-Sep-11 10:32:32

Thank you all so much for your kind words, advice and sympathy.

I'm going to call the school to air my concerns (I have a few other questions to ask anyway).

In the meantime I'm going to make my son feel confident and 'boosted' up about starting school as much as I can (and will hide my feelings of anxiety!).

They're so precious I guess it's natural to feel protective and worried about them when you know they're going to be alone for such a big chunk of the day. Hope it all goes well and that I have nothing to worry about!

Thanks again. Really appreciate it.

xxxx smile xxxx

paddyclamp Sun 04-Sep-11 16:33:46

He'll be fine! Mine both started full time from day one, before that they were at preschool part time!...Kids are tougher than we think!

I think these staggered starts cause no end of problems for working parents..especially those who don't have grandma living on the door step

Reception teachers are usually great at getting children to settle in and making things fun for them smile

mrz Sun 04-Sep-11 16:42:33

He won't be alone but you will be with him and that's the hard part for a mum.

pointythings Sun 04-Sep-11 21:58:42

Spare a thought for those of us with the opposite problem - where I am, the children aren't allowed to do full days until the term they turn 5 - so with two winter borns I had to wait an entire term of half days. In practice this meant with DD1 that I started her a term late because I could not get childcare for picking her up at lunchtime - fortunately the school was happy with this and she settled in without being excluded by previously formed friendship groups. With DD2 there was noon pickup available, but I spent a term trying to explain to a very angry little girl who was well and truly ready for full-time school that she couldn't stay with her friends for school dinner and the afternoon programme.

There was no flexibility - the school asked if they could offer full time for children that they and the parents agreed were ready - no go, the rules had to be adhered to. It was a nightmare or a full-time working parent.

I think schools should be allowed to manage their intake flexibly, taking the child's maturity into account. We survived, but I cursed the fact that we are in Suffolk - in Cambridgeshire the 'incubation period' would have been much shorter.

MCos Sun 04-Sep-11 23:10:40

I wouldn't request him to have different hours than the rest of his class.

Your DS will probably hold it together during school hours. But will most likely be exhausted after school.
Plan for a very tired DS once he gets home. Give him plenty of time to chill out (like some mindless TV viewing). Maybe even encourage a nap (maybe on the sofa rather than bed?). Also plan to feed him as soon as he gets home, because he will probably be starving.
I would also give any afternoon hobbies a skip for a few weeks.

cjbartlett Mon 05-Sep-11 08:08:49

Fao Gloria: I couldnt find original thread we were chatting on but good luck for communicating with school day about delayed start
Dd so far very excited to be in her uniform and she's seen some of her friends go past the house so I don't think she would be happy if I didn't let her go!
Very nervous though!

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