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Advice needed: DD starting Reception in Sept

(45 Posts)
whichway Mon 07-Jul-14 13:39:14


I am not from the UK, my husband is British. I am committed to making this work (living in the UK), but I am having major difficulties adjusting to the cultural differences between the UK and my country of origin when it comes to schooling. I realize that I will have to do most of the compromising. What I am looking for is some advice on how to negotiate things with the school (if there is any room for negotiation), and how to find a way to do things that will work for our family. (In case you were wondering, yes, I have looked at foreign mums forums as well).

Here are some of the main issues I am having.

1) My Dd turned 4 in June. I don't believe she is mature enough to spend all that time away from home. I have requested to discuss the option of attending part time, but I haven't heard anything back from the school. When/If they contact me I am sure it will be to dismiss my concerns and tell me that in their experience by making her attend full time I would giving her the best possible start.
I expect to hear a lot of "Oh, she'll cope" and to get a lot of condescending looks. She is 4, she shouldn't have to cope. I know my mentality is very un-British, and that's just the problem.
Is there anything at all I can say to the school to get them to agree to let DD attend part-time for a few months?

2)Hygiene issues. DD is toilet trained but will hold it in until the last possible second. When we are at home sometimes she will just run to the bathroom by herself and barely make it. At nursery it is a non-issue because she can stay dry for 3 hours. She has never had an accident at nursery, but she has never been to the bathroom either. She does not tell me or any of her nursery school teachers when she needs to go. She just starts hopping around.
I know she WILL wet herself when she goes to school from 9am-3pm. And I know it will happen a lot. In a few months things will be different, she will be older and understand what she is supposed to do. But right now she just doesn't "get it" in spite of my best efforts (reward charts, lots of praise, etc) . I.e. : she is not ready to be gone from home for longer than the 3 hours she spends at nursery.

Will she cope? Yes of course, eventually she will get it. But how many times will she come home with bright purple skin down there from prolonged contact with urine or poo? How long will a teacher who has to mind another 29 children leave dd in her own filth? How many UTIs before she "gets it"? How do I convince myself that somehow this is what's best for my child vs attending part time until she is a bit more mature?

3)DD gets sick a lot. It seems to be expected that children will go to school unless they are passed out in their own vomit. The standard GP will tell you " it's a virus" no matter what, load them up on Paracetamol and they are good to go. I would be ok with it if the teacher would be willing to keep the sick child indoors during the colder months. But no such luck! A child with a chest infection (whether it is actually viral it remains to be seen) will be shooed outside with the others, will be encouraged to play with water and mud, get their sleeves/knees wet, and be left like that for hours.
" It will dry up eventually" is the standard answer. I have heard it a lot at nursery. And each and every time Dd's cough takes a turn for the worse.

Has anyone ever asked to keep their child indoors when they are poorly? Is that even an option?

I am acutely aware that by British standards I am over protective. By my country's standards I am average. I live here, I need to find a way to survive. Any advice would be welcome. Snarky replies would not surprise me in the slightest, but it would be nice if you would kindly just skip my post if you have no actual advice.

Thank you in advance for any all all replies!

InvaderZim Mon 07-Jul-14 13:50:13

By law your child does not have to be in school until the term after they turn 5, which would mean that she is not legally required to start school until Sept 2015. Whether your school will allow part-time attendance or even to hold the place until the summer term depends a lot on the school.

Alternately, you can home educate, it is 100% legal to do so, and you can choose the learning style you like. You will probably find a local home ed group to join if you do so.

Or, your child could attend nursery and receive her 15 hours funding for the next year. If and when she starts school she will join with her age cohort so if she starts in Sept 2015 she will enter into year 1. Hope this helps?

Mcnorton Mon 07-Jul-14 13:56:45

Hi whichway

My son went to school a few days after his 4th birthday and I had similar worries. I found that different schools varied widely in how much leeway there was about part time attendance. I think you can hold her back until January for example in most schools. One school I visited said they would play it by ear and just do a couple of full days and a couple of half days a week if he was tired between September and Christmas. For various reasons I ended up sending him to one where it was full time from the beginning (main one was that all his friends were going to this school and I felt he would benefit from that) and it was fine. But my point is that you may find they are willing to negotiate. It might be that they are waiting for her nursery report before they contact you, as nursery may have something to say about how they think she will cope.

In terms of toilet training, my son's school uses a system of signing for little kids to indicate when they need the loo. They are not expected to wait and tell someone, they make a T sign with their hands at the teacher or teaching assistant, and dash to the loo. As far as I can tell it works well. Because kids are starting younger they are getting used to dealing with this effectively and informally. And a lot can happen in terms of development in a few months, especially if you can stay positive with her (frustrating as it can be, I know - my son seems to do everything slower than the other kids, but he gets there eventually)

Re being ill and staying inside, I find with my son (your DD may be different of course) that as he likes school, it usually takes his mind off sickness and he's fine when he's there.

Apologies if this sounds like I'm refuting your points, just trying to reassure! I was very worried about mine being the youngest in his school year, but apart from him being initially scared in the noisy playground, which teachers spotted and helped him with, he's been fine. He's now in year 1. Hopefully your school will be as good as his!

GoogleyEyes Mon 07-Jul-14 13:58:23

On 1), I think you need to book a meeting / phone call with the Reception teacher and see what you can negotiate. You may need to involve the head of Early Years at the school, too, if it's not the same person. In the end, I agreed to start my dd full time, with the option to reduce to half days if she wasn't coping - but she coped fine, so I didn't.

On 2), you may find that she just learns that at school she has to use the toilets or it may be and endless series of accidents. You won't know unless you try. For comparison, my dd took herself to the loo at nursery independently way before she did that at home, so it can be quite different in different environments. And YR TAs do a lot of changing kids, mopping up puddles etc, it's entirely usual for there to be lots of accidents.

On 3), I think it depends a lot on the teacher and the set-up. If its free flow, then your daughter can choose to stay indoors if she's not feeling well, and you could explain to the teacher that you've asked her to do so. If they have set times for being outside, it would be more tricky. I suspect most teachers would see you as being over-protective if you couldn't produce some evidence (eg Dr's letter) about why your dd is more susceptible to the cold than other children. But again, this is an issue to discuss with the YR teacher - you might find she's entirely sympathetic, you just can't tell until you ask.

I was wondering, are you Italian? Dd's nursery has quite a few Italian kids, and similar issues come up there... The nursery deals with it by being very flexible, but they have a much higher ratio than school.

EnglishRose1320 Mon 07-Jul-14 14:00:10

I am English and have similar views to you, have to go into the school later today to ask for a meeting about part time hours when DS starts in September, have already been told though that the school doesn't approve of part time hours. However DS is quite young for his age, still has day time sleeps and gets run down very quickly so don't see how he will cope and as you say I don't think he should just have to cope.

Have you looked around the school? The school my son is starting and most that I have worked in have toilets attached to the foundation class that the children can just dash to when they need to- hopefully this will be the case for you.

With regards to staying inside during cold weather, when I was working we were happy for children getting over chest infections to stay inside but didn't have the staffing levels for every child that was prone to a cough or cold staying in (wish we did- I would have rather stayed inside myself!) Personally I use to send my older son to school with a thermal vest under his school shirt and always make sure he had hats and gloves if needed. Its a tricky one, it is hard for schools to manage every individual need and those of the whole class.

Sorry not to be able to offer much practical help or advice. The only other thing I can think of which is a last resort option is the fact that legally she doesn't have to start school till the term after her 5th birthday which would mean staying at home for another year and starting in year one, this however depends on your situation work wise/SAHM and obviously could put her at a disadvantage socially and academically.

noramum Mon 07-Jul-14 14:09:18

I am also foreign and in my country children go to school after they turn 6 so I found a lot also quite difficult in the beginning.

1. The teacher are experienced and Reception is still the EYFS curriculum, the same the nursery uses. It is a lot of free play, child-let and fun. Yes, they learn to read, write and numbers but at this age children actually want to learn, they are curious and it is done in a very playful manner.

As you have a Summer born you can apply for a later start, January or Easter. The only drawback - it may be difficult for you child to join if you don't know what they do in class. Coping with learning phonics 3-6 months after the other children started can make a negative impact. Speak to the teacher (did you have your parent information evening already?) and ask what they do.

2. A lot of children start wetting themselves and teacher are normally relaxed. If it gets too much they may ask you to come and change her. Could you teach her to change and clean herself? DD always has a pair of spare knickers in her PE bag with socks/tights.

3. No, schools are not interested in having sick children in school. School is an environment where illnesses spread easily and if a child is contagious it has to stay home. Most have a 48hr policy for D+V bugs and won't administer any medicine apart from prescription.

I don't think you can ask for a child to stay indoors, it would cause havoc to keep an eye on her. Decent waterproof and warm clothing like waterproof coats, waterproof overtrousers if necessary, decent wellies or warm boots she can change into for playtime are a lot better. And a spare set in her PE bag. DD had a couple of accidents, falling into puddles or muddy ground and was changed into spare clothes, nobody lets a child sit somewhere in wet clothes for hours.

PastSellByDate Mon 07-Jul-14 14:11:05

Hi whichway:

Also not educated in primary/ secondary in UK - but husband was (well Essex - does that count as UK?) - anyway....

1) regarding starting at 4. First off - don't judge anything until you get there. Most receptions classes are very similar to what in the US/ Germany/ France/ etc... would be considered nursery/ pre-school environments. They'll learn their alphabet (letter names & sounds)/ counting to 20 - maybe 100/ maybe first forays into addition/ subtraction - but all very gently and no huge pressure to achieve anything. They are still assessed against nursery school Early Years Foundation Stage scheme:

So my advice is don't panic that this is formal education - it isn't. Children can wander around, can wander outside, can take a nap, etc....

but as others have advised above - raise with the school your concern that going full-time may be tiring at first - but accept that in many countries because parents work 3-5 years olds often are in full-time day care and Reception often is the equivalent.

2) Hygeine issues: Teachers have been there and done that with hundreds of children before yours. They'll encourage them to all take a 'potty break' before assembly/ play time or after lunch time. Your child will become aclimatised to learning when to take a 'comfort break' as Wimbledon Tennis Club would call it.

Accidents do happen - I just threw in a spare change of clothes in my child's PE kit for the first term. In fact it was never needed.

3) You can decide whether your child is too ill. My experience is that teacher's recognise that a hot, noisy classroom isn't the place for a kid with a fever and tend to call. If you're incredibly grateful when they call you first time round, you'll find that they're more willing to make calls again in the future. It's dreading a parent yelling at you that prevents teacher's from calling to say a kid's ill and settle to just wait until end of school day.

My advice is don't judge. I've been on a lot about the academic disappointment of St. Mediocre CofE where DD1 is just about to finish - but genuinely as a place to go to school DD1 has been remarkably happy and well looked after there. You really can't presume that the school won't have sympathy for a sick child/ be alert to 'the dance' of a child who needs the toilet/ be understanding when the school environment is too much.

I also think you have to wait and see how your child takes to school. I thought DD1 would be fine and in fact it took a while to settle in and there were some tears. DD2 - who can be very emotional - never looked back - practically abandoned me at the gate Day 1.

Take a deep breath and try to focus on the positive and fun things about learning environments: making friends, learning new games, learning new songs, getting involved in clubs/ sports/ groups, adoring a good teacher, getting fired up about certain subjects (dinosaurs/ solar system/etc...), learning to read and devouring books in the process, counting to 100 for the first time by 2s/ 5s or 10s, etc...


littlesupersparks Mon 07-Jul-14 14:19:16

You need to speak to the school.

At our school you can just do mornings for as long as you lol (well, until the child turns 5) - no pressure for full days at all.

I'm sure they will have lots of experience with all different stages of toilet training - just send her in with spares just in case, but again speak to the teacher as they will have strategies to deal with this.

It is very much a free play environment - no different really to pre school, kindergarten or nursery. I do think, personally, it's best to start at the same time as all the others but you are certainly within your rights to keeps her home for a bit longer if you like...

whichway Mon 07-Jul-14 14:50:11

Just wanted to say thanks for all the responses. A lot of useful information and advice!

I have made the decision a while ago not to home school, because I want my children to have contact with as many children as possible. Also, from a purely academic standpoint I am happy with the schools in the UK in general. It is a very early start with literacy and math, but as long as dd is happy and coping with the workload, I am happy. My problems are in terms of health and safety, I guess.

The primary school that offered her a place is ranked outstanding by Ofsted and is very oversubscribed and generally regarded as the best in our town. So obviously we were very lucky and very happy to get in. If dd were to skip Reception or attend elsewhere (i.e. nursery) the chances of her getting a place for Y1 at the above mentioned school are slim to none.

Like I said, I am committed to making things work. I know that in a year or two she will be perfectly ok. It is a matter of getting through the next year or so - or until she can look after herself properly.

PastSellByDate Mon 07-Jul-14 14:57:18

Given what you've just said whichway - I think a wait and see attitude is best.

Be sure to signal strongly you're concerned about how your child is settling - but also be sure to signal that you're happy for the teacher's to take the lead on this.

There should be plenty of opportunities for you to join in things with your child - reading mornings, coffee mornings, maths workshops, etc... - my advice is find out when these are and try and schedule your work (if you work) or your day (if you are a SAHM) around these at first - so that you are regularly there, getting a feel for the classroom environment/ teachers/ putting names to faces/ meeting some other parents/ etc....

It's a good sign the school is rated outstanding and I'm certain they've have had plenty a worried Mum with their PFB off to primary school. But 4 is very young and it is quite a wrench to us poor Mum's sending them off for the first day of school. Try to focus on the positives - be alert to negatives but don't go looking for them IYSWIM.

Hang in there whichway. I'm sending you a digital cup of tea brew - it's a very hard thing having your little one head off for school - but it can be a very positive and exciting time for them, genuinely!


sittingatmydeskagain Mon 07-Jul-14 15:06:13

Just to add my experience re: ill children - my youngest struggles with cold, heat and is asthmatic. In Reception, he also got very tired after lunch, particularly if it was hot.

School simply let him stay inside if it was hot, freezing cold, or foggy - he frequently had a nap in the library corner.

I think it will depend on the school, but ours have always been very good with this.

Deverethemuzzler Mon 07-Jul-14 15:16:45

My fifth child is about to start reception.

Your DD is very young to be starting school. In my borough you are able to defer for a year. You should have been sent information about this a few months ago.

2. I don't really understand why you think British parents send their children to school when they are ill. Schools have policies that generally ask parents to keep their children off for 48 hours after a fever or vomiting etc.
Schools and parents IME would much prefer sick kids to be kept off.

QuiteQuietly Mon 07-Jul-14 15:19:16

I am also from elsewhere. In my birth culture having a cold is much more of a deal than here and taking a child out of doors with a runny nose is cruelty and allows every random old woman in a 10 mile radius to come and harangue you about what a terrible parent you are. Here, people barely notice a cough or runny nose and it is considered normal. It is hard to ignore these heavily ingrained cultural norms, and I feel for you OP. I try to compensate with hardy underwear, lots of healthy food and days at home when I consider it necessary.

Talk to the school - they will be used to a wide variety of children at different developmental stages. One my DC wouldn't use toilets outside of home (held on until far too late to dash) - school were very sympathetic, patient and helpful. Another one still slept most afternoons until Christmas in Y1. School will have seen it all before. If you can't get a part time timetable you are happy with, then home-ed can be a positive choice - children don't have to go to school at any age.

Finally do try not to be a martyr about compromise - there are no medals for suffering. You have lots of choices and compromise is an inevitable part of interacting with anyone, particularly in an international marriage. The UK is an idiotic country populated with its own native idiots, but the same goes for everywhere else as well. Here is not necessarily better or worse - it is just different.

CelticPromise Mon 07-Jul-14 15:24:09

It's your choice whether to send her part time or later in the year. School might not like it but it's not up to them. You could also ask to delay a year. You might find useful info on the Facebook group ' Flexible Admission for Summer Born Children'.

WisemansBridge Mon 07-Jul-14 15:30:55

Hi whichway, I'm British but have had the same concerns about you. My third dd will be starting reception in September.

Are you free during the school day at all? I found that volunteering at the school really helped because I was able to see for myself exactly what was going on behind closed doors and in doing so I felt very reassured - of course I volunteered on the pretence of lending a helping hand, I didn't tell them I was there to spy! Dd1 and dd2 attended reception at different schools and both schools were happy to have me volunteer. I mostly listened to children read and helped out at lunchtime too. I got to know the teacher and other staff and could see how happy my dc were in the classroom environment and would've been able to spot any problems they were having - luckily there weren't any.

I'm due to start volunteering in dd3's class in September.

whichway Mon 07-Jul-14 15:38:56

I would love to volunteer to help out with whatever they need during school hours. The thing is I am a SAHM and have a 2 year old DS as well as DD. I would have to hire a sitter to look after him, which financially doesn't make a lot of sense, but I might give it a try occasionally, so I can see how dd is doing.

She is able to get dressed/undressed. Wiping is an issue , especially with #2. If she has an accident (esp with poo), she definitely needs help cleaning up.

About being ill/ recovering from an illness. One of the reasons I became slightly paranoid/worried is that I had a couple of bad experiences at nursery.

Only time will tell, I guess, but when I hinted at the subject with one of the teachers at her new school, she just smiled pleasantly and nodded. I have no idea what to make of it, it could go either way.

whichway Mon 07-Jul-14 15:53:11

Also, in response to the valid points raised by a couple of pp. regarding illnesses.

I think the main problem is to establish when/if the child is too ill to go to school, or in case he/she goes to school to engage in what most would consider normal outdoors activities during the colder months.

In my experience the answer to this question is not as clear- cut as it might seem. Common sense and logic should dictate the answer, but the reality is that, except for the most extreme and obvious cases, a parent's perception of how ill their child is depends largely on cultural factors.

LizzieMint Mon 07-Jul-14 16:02:06

A lot will depend on the school I would have thought. We have a small, village primary school, intake is 15 per year so in the whole school there are <100 children.
My experience is that the care in reception was great, they expect most of the children will have accidents at some stage or another, they certainly don't leave them in wet/dirty underwear.

At our school they are incredibly flexible with how much the child attends at first. Technically, they are all in full-time from the start, in practice, the teacher said to just let them know if they needed a 'duvet day' or they would let some parents know sometimes if their child was very tired and needed to do a short day or whatever.

With regards to illnesses - you need to decide whether your child is too ill to go in (except for D&V where they have to stay off for 48 hrs afterwards anyway) but if your child is poorly and miserable, the school will just call you to get you to pick them up. My son suffers from ear infections, and had a few over the winter - they just let him stay in with a friend while it was very very cold.

Have you had a chance to talk to the teachers about the school, their policies, the level of pastoral care?

WisemansBridge Mon 07-Jul-14 16:06:36

Sorry whichway, I meant to say I have the same concerns as you, not about you confused

Yes I completely agree that cultural factors influence how we perceive illness. Also, I think a big, big problem we have in this country is that schools are under pressure to reach attendance targets so they're always pushing for high attendance and rewarding those who achieve high attendance. It's very unfair, isn't a child's fault if they catch a vomiting bug or, like my dc for example, suffer from asthma. And the pressure to attend means that poorly children are being sent to school to spread their bugs (but at least they still get their 100% certificate and prize!) And the parents who do the right thing and keep their children home are seen as being too fussy and overprotective.

Sorry, totally off track there, will stop ranting now!

EnglishRose1320 Mon 07-Jul-14 16:14:36

Sorry to hi jack this thread but have a similar question and was wondering whether anyone knew the answer,

Considering either deferring DS's place or a part time start
School have implied it is there choice and it is not something they are happy doing, local council website seems to imply it is my right to decide up until DS is 5, which is what I thought was the case, now feel confused!

With regards to illness whichway I totally understand your concern, my oldest DS came home with a letter at the beginning of the year stating that if a child was only sick once or had a bit of an upset stomach they were still to attend school- completely driven by attendance fears and totally mad in my mind- any day he has had off I have to give the administrators the exact details of his illness as well.

QuiteQuietly Mon 07-Jul-14 16:39:26

Most reception classes have "free-flow" between inside and outside and it's hard to police. Not all schools have a "chill zone" option at lunchtime for children to stay inside and it can be hard to honour individual parental requests because of the numbers of children/different staff at lunchtimes etc. . Plus, your child may not wish to stay inside if their friends are outside. If you think they are too under-the-weather to go outside and you don't have a specific doctor-written request, then keep them home.

whichway Mon 07-Jul-14 17:00:09

My understanding (someone please correct me if I am wrong) is that you are not legally required to send your child to school until age 5. However a lot of schools (not all, but a lot) don't like children attending part-time, deferring or delaying entry.

If the school is very popular, they may give your child's place to the next person in line if you choose not to accept it (as opposed to holding the place for when your child is ready). In that case you have to be prepared for your child to go to a less desirable school when he or she turns 5. This is not the case for all schools, but I am pretty sure it is the case with DD's school.

For part-time attendance it is a different story. You are not giving up your place, you are simply not taking full advantage of all that is being offered to you. Ultimately I think it is a grey area and it is up to the school ( at least, that is what I was told when I phoned the Council) .

You can be stubborn and say I am not letting DC attend unless is part time. The school may agree to it , but you may have permanently ruined your relationship with them in the process, and be labeled as a difficult parent, which might make your life harder later on. Again it depends on the school.

I personally have requested to discuss part-time attendance with dd's new school but I have not heard anything back yet. I did talk about it with one of the TA and the answer was pretty much "no". How far am I willing to take it when/if the headteacher finally sets up a meeting to talk about it? How angry are they going to get if I am persistent and get the Council involved? Ultimately the last thing I want is to make people who will be working with my child mad enough at me to make life harder for her. KWIM?

To the posters who raised the issue of attendance, Dd's school is determined in setting an example. It is a big part of their school ethos, and they make it clear to parents that absence due to illnesses should be a rare occurrence, reserved only for the most serious cases.
To me a persistent chesty cough (even in the absence of a high temperature) is a big deal, so I am a bit stuck on this point, as you might have guessed.... smile

WisemansBridge Mon 07-Jul-14 17:33:54

whichway, I think a lot of schools are the same regarding attendance unfortunately. I agree that a persistent chesty cough is a big deal.

I have no advice I'm afraid regarding part time/deferral/potentially pissing the school off. I think if it were me I'd send dd full time to start and see how she gets on. She might be absolutely fine. If not you can consider a battle then. Do they do settling in sessions for you to take dd along to? My dc's school do this so you can see their environment and find a bit about what will happen. If you're able to get a sitter for your ds I would definitely recommend volunteering though, even if it's just one morning per week (I did this at one point whrn I had other commitments).

DeWee Mon 07-Jul-14 17:51:45

My dd1 was the same way about toileting at preschool. I usually picked her up dancing on the spot and she would dash straight off as soon as I arrived unless I'd asked one of the staff to make sure she took her.

In reception she just went and it was no issue at all.

FinDeSemaine Mon 07-Jul-14 18:40:08

Re the toileting thing, my DD was nearly five when she started school and STILL was a bit rubbish about dashing to the loo at the last second. Be aware that there will be lots and lots of reminders to go to the loo - at break, when changing from one activity to another, at lunch, after lunch, when getting ready for PE etc etc etc. Teachers of Reception children are very used to dealing with this issue (and it is very common for some children to take a while to get the hang of it fully).

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