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Being part of the school community when you work full-time

(45 Posts)
dodi1978 Wed 04-Feb-15 11:08:30

I wanted to run a problem past you that is increasingly bugging me. even though it is still more than two years away. My DS is 18 months and will hopefully go to the local infant school just down the road. He'll go to school being just four, being August born.
I will likely to continue working full-time then, for various reasons, which may mean breakfast club or some other form of childcare before school, and an after-school club. How do you ever become part of the school / local community when you never get to meet other mums and dads at the school gate? How do you ever have the chance to set up play dates etc.?
Any tips / advice on how it all works? I also was not brought up in this country so don't quite know how the "school thing" works here!
Unfortunately, DS will also probably not be able to attend the pre-school that is attached to the infant school, as it is not full-time... so there will be little chance of making friends locally before starting school. He is currently attending my workplace nursery, which he loves, and will continue to go there until school starts.

redskybynight Wed 04-Feb-15 12:12:32

You can still meet parents at parties, playdates and school events. Also extra-curricular activities. It's worth taking time off work to attend the odd school assembly or sports day. You can make playdates via notes in the bookbag, once your DS starts to make some friends.

Also worth saying that I think school "community" will vary depending on your area. At my DC's school most parents only talk to those those they know already. I've only really got to know the parents of my DC's friends. And by age 7, everyone was dropping and running - there is no standing around in the playground chatting. Friends in more village type schools do have different experiences.

noramum Wed 04-Feb-15 12:14:54

Keep lots of leave available for school things. Assemblies, plays, school trips.

Most schools will stagger intake so you need to take leave for the first couple of weeks into account. This could be a good opportunity to meet others.

Could you shuffle your hours to do the drop off? I work 4 days but until last months I only did 6 instead of 7 hours and did the drop off. Yes, I lost some income but it was worth it.

For playdates - when you see that your child mentions a name quite often just put a note into the book bag for the other child with your contact details and do a playdate on a Saturday afternoon or in the holidays.

Find out who your class reps are, they normally do a contact list.

And: in lots of Reception classes birthday parties are for the whole class. Most parents stayed when DD was in Reception, great opportunity to chat and meet.

SavoyCabbage Wed 04-Feb-15 12:20:35

It will depend on the school but at ours there is a lot of ways to get involved.

There are class reps who gather parents phone numbers and emails and organise meet ups in the holidays (with dc) or meals out (without dc)

There are one off things to help with like a stall for Mother's Day for example.

There is a second hand uniform facebook page to administer.

There is helping in the classroom or on trips if you can take any time off.

We have a big fete so people are needed to coordinate things for that.

Heels99 Wed 04-Feb-15 12:23:32

Join the PSA and help at school fairs etc.

If you can manage a drop off or pick up even once per week it is helpful

YoullLikeItNotaLot Wed 04-Feb-15 12:25:50


Invite your child's particular friends via letter sent in with your child.

You'll meet loads of the other parents at children's parties too.

Nolim Wed 04-Feb-15 12:28:25

No advice but reading with interest.

Somemumsodd Wed 04-Feb-15 13:32:56

Loads of ways at ours as we have high proportion of working parents - play dates at weekends, loads of out of school clubs - sports, ballet etc, kids party most weekends, parent nights out organised by everyone texting round etc We also have a very active PTA about 60 strong who almost all work PT or FT - easy to sign up to help out. FB page and Twitter too. It can happen. Ironically I think ours works like this as the traditional school gates meet up and chat only applies to half the school !!!

moonbells Wed 04-Feb-15 13:41:13

I made a massive effort to learn all the mums' names from our year (I'm not good with faces!). Then asked my boss for flexible working which means I get to the school gate once a week (and work the time back over two other days). That way I am available for the teacher to pass on any concerns, and also chat to the other mums. Breakfast club is drop and run so hopeless for talking.

Birthday parties are another point of contact. There's a lot to begin with.

I don't get to many things for the wider school community, but I do get to the in-year things like mums' nights out or picnics in summer holidays. If there's nothing like that at the school when you get there, organise it! All of us have each other's mobile phone numbers and email addresses and we keep in contact via those and some very hands-on year reps.

nonicknameseemsavailable Wed 04-Feb-15 14:29:58

some PTAs do meetings in the evenings so worth trying to get to those and I agree on the saving leave to use for school things. if you can volunteer to help with say 1 PTA event during the year (might mean taking a half day from work) then you will get to see other people then and be part of things.

Majority of parents work nowadays and the PTA is often staffed by people who work so everyone is in the same boat.

playdates - I agree with sticking a note in your child's bag with your contact details on to the parent of another child they have mentioned asking if you can meet at the park or something at the weekend.

Millionprammiles Wed 04-Feb-15 15:00:21

Pick your school carefully. Not all have majority two working parent families, not all have BC/ASC.

Go to the open days and ask direct questions. If the Head says she thinks all children should go straight home to their parents at 3.30pm that's probably not the school for working parents (yes this really happened, even though the school had an ASC).

Find out how much parental involvement happens during normal school hours (eg parents coming in at 10am every week to help children with reading etc) and how much mid week homework like craft projects etc is expected.

dodi1978 Wed 04-Feb-15 16:46:24

Thanks for all your suggestions so far! Will follow up and reply when I've got a bit more time tonight, hopefully!

ChocolateWombat Wed 04-Feb-15 18:41:54

It is hard if you are working and you will never be as 'in' with the crowd, as if you are there 10 times a week.
Yes to the idea of collecting once a week, so you can arrange play dates. Yes to making sure you go to any evening parents socials organised.
Def try to get to any school organised things for her class BEFORE she starts school, even if during the welcome morning/talk......these are where many parents might meet for the first time. Be proactive and take phone numbers and arrange a play date or two for over the summer - so get in quick with meeting people.
Yes to keeping a bit of leave time for things like school concerts. Ask the School Office very early for all dates, so you can get organised.

elfonshelf Wed 04-Feb-15 18:43:57

I found meeting other YR mothers when picking up from ASC was good as they were in the same boat. Also accept every party invitation and get to meet people there. It's not easy, but most people are pretty friendly. It is tricky to do play-dates, but I just reckoned that every day was a play-date for DD (just not supervised by me).

Once the evenings got lighter, I twigged that loads of parents went to the park round the corner from the school and met lots and lots of people there.

BTW, you don't have to do a staggered start. Your child has the right to start school on the first day of the autumn term and do full days and it's for the school to sort that, so don't feel you have to accept staggered starts or half-days etc.

None of the primary schools round here do it - everyone starts together and these are 60 and 90 pupil intakes. IMO it's a complete load of bollocks making them do part-time and start late and has no advantage for the kids at all. Is just a total PITA for working parents and shows that the school has little empathy for them.

NoMoreDelays Wed 04-Feb-15 19:13:10

Why don't you organise a big 4th Birthday party and invite all the children who are going to be in his class.
The school will probably have an evening for you to attend in the summer term so you could invite people then.

sunnydayinmay Wed 04-Feb-15 19:30:40

Yes to PTA and helping at school events at weekends. Also, most birthday parties in Reception are whole class affairs, and parents often stay for a coffee and chat. And then we also have nights out with wine...

dodi1978 Wed 04-Feb-15 20:17:56

Thanks again, everybody! You give me hope that we will actually be part of the school community after all.

We live rurally, so I think there is a pretty strong community. Lots of women are SAHMs or work part-time so won't have the same issues.

I may be able to do morning-drop offs, but pay the price for it by having to work from home in the evenings. On the other hand, I may be able to sneak off for the odd assembly etc. without having to take leave officially, for as long as I get my work done.

Going part-time, unfortunately, is not an option, and not only for financial reasons.

Will definitely try to get onto the PTA.

I've never heard of staggered starts! I'd be really annoyed about that as it would be difficult for us to find the childcare. Good to hear that you don't have to accept it.

I never knew about book bags and notes... UK primary education is a new world to me!

Regarding birthday parties - a good idea to throw one before school even starts. My DS has a birthday in early August, so will probably rarely have his party on his actual birthday because everybody will be on holiday. My tentative plan is that we'll always through the big end of term or start of term party. What do you think is better, i.e. when are kids / families more likely to attend (mid July / early September)?

Thanks again!

twosmallbuttons Wed 04-Feb-15 20:27:04

You could do a start of term party as a late 4th birthday, although my July-born DD had invitations to 5th birthday parties in October so that came as a bit of a shock!
Then I'd do the 5th birthday before term ends in mid July the following year.
So both, to answer your question! grin

twosmallbuttons Wed 04-Feb-15 20:29:22

And my DD's school did 2 stay & play sessions in June/July before they actually started, so we were able to make a few friends then & meet up over the summer for the DC to get to know each other.
Ask the local school if they offer these sessions, then just be bold and get some numbers smile

Somemumsodd Wed 04-Feb-15 22:23:59

A start of term party at end Sept is an ace idea. My mate did it and invited the whole class - was a great social start to the new school and parents!

noramum Thu 05-Feb-15 07:04:12

The staggered intake - you may have a right to demand full time but do you really want to be the parent starting on the wrong foot with the school.

I also enjoyed DD telling me what they did, how she coped with the new and large environment and the other children. She was in full time nursery but school for her was a totally new thing.

We did it for one week and then her childminder collected her and she stayed there the afternoon.

WhoKnowsWhereTheTimeGoes Thu 05-Feb-15 07:23:24

The staggered start thing can be tricky, especially with a summer born child, when my DCs started the summer born children were on half days till half term, the autumn borns were full time after a week and are in a different class, so it's worth finding out the system well in advance. Although you could insist on yours going full time, if they have to move to a different class for the afternoons etc.
I do think schools vary, very few SAHMs at ours, but nearly all school families have one parent who works P/t and virtually everything happens within the working day. We don't have contact lists and only the odd organised parents night out, so it is down to time off work, chatting at parties and the school gate unfortunately. PTA meetings alternate between day and evening, most of us can only make about half of them but it still works.
I still think you could make it work though if you had the right attitude, you will also probably find other parents from your school at swimming lessons etc too once your child starts

WipsGlitter Thu 05-Feb-15 07:28:52

I think it's tricky. Our school doesn't do assemblies and the school plays people tend to sit with friends or people thyme know. You could join the PTA. Or as someone said shuffle hours so you can drop even for the first year. If the school runs something g like swimming lessons you could meet parents there. I also found in the first year a lot of parents stayed at parties.

mummytime Thu 05-Feb-15 07:29:01

If you use a local child minder (or even some nurseries), they can often help with the issue of staggered starts. A CM can often help with picking up childcare for half-terms and inset days too.

BillStickersIsInnocent Thu 05-Feb-15 07:33:36

For us the staggered start (over a month) was great for meeting other parents. DH and I each took 2 weeks leave to cover it, but I know other colleagues have taken unpaid leave. It was lovely actually as we all met for lunch in the park before or after school depending on the slot. Also def join the PTA or at least offer to help at events. We have lots of fund raisers which are eyewateringly expensive to attend but probably worth it in terms of making friends.

DC go to after school club and also get the bus when I'm working at home so I rarely do the school run now. It's a rural school in a fairly wealthy area with a high proportion of SAHMs but plenty of working parents too, and SAHDs.

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