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Schools and education

Starting school

Starting a new school is an exciting step, but it’s natural if you or your child have some concerns about how well they will take to it. Most children settle in to a new routine very quickly, but here are 5 tips for children starting primary school or secondary school to help make the move a smooth one. We've also provided a list of other things you can do to help your child get ready for school.

Primary school

Here are 5 tips for starting primary school:

1. Get your child used to dressing and undressing themselves

It can be frustrating, but showing them how to do up buttons and zips, and making sure they can put on their own coat and shoes, is a great way to encourage independence and help your child’s confidence grow.

When getting new uniform, think about simple fastenings to give your child a head start such as Velcro fastenings on shoes and elasticated trousers. Plan in an extra couple of minutes each morning to practise putting on shoes.

2. Teach your child how to go to the toilet on their own, including sorting out their clothing, wiping and handwashing afterwards

If your child regularly wets or soils their clothes during the day, it’s worth getting in touch with your health visitor. As trained nurses, they’re really used to helping with these sorts of issues and will have lots of useful advice. You can contact them on 01904 555475 or by emailing

3. Encourage your child to use a knife and fork at mealtimes

Try to encourage your child to wash their hands before eating as well. Practise cutting soft items such as sausages and potatoes with a knife and fork. These basic finger strengthening skills will also eventually help your child with their writing.

Try to get them eating whole pieces of fruit, such as apples, as this is how they will be offered fruit as a snack at school, though you’ll still need to cut up smaller items such as grapes, to make sure they don’t choke on them. Challenge your child to peel a satsuma in one go!

4. Encourage your child to sit and listen to a story and talk about the book for a few minutes at a time

This can be a big ask for busy children!

If your child finds sitting still tricky, start off by keeping their attention for one or two minutes, and build it up gradually from there. Finding a story they really love can help.

Talk about the story afterwards, what was your favourite part, did it remind you of another story or of something you have done together? Were there any words in the story that your child may not have understood. Have fun explaining the word - maybe act it out or set a challenge to use it three times that day.

5. Help your child to learn to follow simple instructions

Can you get them to help you by asking them to tidy up or put toys in particular places? Try phrases like ‘first put the car away, then put the book away.’ Can they remember the two instructions? You could make following instructions into a game by playing ‘Simon Says’!

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Secondary school

Here are 5 tips for starting secondary school:

1. Don’t worry if you feel excited and a bit nervous about moving school, it’s really normal to feel a bit of both

Most people will feel a mix of emotions when starting any new challenge and moving to a new school is no different.

2. Try to get used to your new school before you start in September

Go to the year 6 transition day or week if they have one and check out your new school’s website for more information. It will help you to become more familiar with the school layout and what you will need to do in advance.

3. Practise your new journey to school before your first day so you feel confident

Making sure you’ve walked or cycled your new route, or caught the right bus, will help to make sure things go more smoothly on your first day.

4. Don’t worry about doing things wrong or getting lost at first, remember it’s really normal to make mistakes

Teachers, school staff and other pupils will be able to help once you start.

5. Chat to someone you trust, like a family member or friend, if you’re worried

BBC Bitezise offers more information about starting secondary school. In addition, you can find out more from Place2Be and YoungMinds.

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Other things you can do to help your child get ready for school include…

  • Learn some nursery rhymes and sing them together
    Can you clap along with the beat?
  • Use their words to describe how they are feeling if they are angry or upset
    During a disagreement encourage each child to take turns to explain what happened. Remind each child to listen to one other and then support them to come up with a fair solution. Practise using phrases such as ‘you can use this one instead’, ‘you can have it when I have finished’ ‘please give that back’.
  • Borrow books from the library
    Talk to your child about what they can see/hear/smell whilst walking to the library. Enjoy the books together. Talk about what they can see in the pictures, make up what characters might be saying, make predictions about what might happen and encourage your child to do the same, ‘I think the penguin might get lost, what do you think?’
  • Let your child get used to carrying a tray with something easy on it
    They will carry their lunch on a special tray, so this will really help at school lunchtime.
  • Remind them to keep their things together
    Finding their own after PE will be much easier if they do!

If you have any concerns about your child’s skills or behaviour, contact the Healthy Child Service on 01904 555475 or by emailing

To find out more, including how to book on to a ‘get ready for school course’ for parents, carers and grandparents, visit York Learning.

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Also see

Healthy Child Service

West Offices, Station Rise, York, YO1 6GA

Telephone: 01904 555475