Anyone else annoyed at the excessive 'settling in' period for reception in primary school penalising the least well off?

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GuyD73
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Anyone else annoyed at the excessive 'settling in' period for reception in primary school penalising the least well off?

Postby GuyD73 » Fri Jul 21, 2017 1:51 pm

No doubt some of you will have recently received the schedule for your childrens’ nursery and reception year starts at your primary schools and I’m interested to hear your thoughts about it.
I won’t mention which school at this stage but I’d imagine they are all very similar and our term starts on 4/5 Sept with two inset days and with my child’s first day on the Friday 8th because she’s among the oldest. I get why they do a staggered start with the youngest first and I’m fine losing a couple of days, but it is then followed by another full 2 weeks of half days before you get a full day on 25th (3 weeks after the start of term!).
I also understand that building up to a full school day may be advantageous for some of the children – perhaps those who are youngest in their year or those who haven’t been to nursery away from their parents before – but I totally fail to see why this needs a whole fortnight and why parents aren’t offered any choice!
The school justifies this by saying staff time is needed to conduct home visits in the first week but I am struggling with the maths that this implies. Home visits are needed for 60 kids and were told should take no longer than 20 mins. If you add 5 minutes for walking between appointments that’s 1,500 minutes (school catchment area is 300 yards and they have said they’ve grouped appointments by proximity), which is 25 hours. Assuming an 8.5 hour day, that’s 3 days each for two people and only half that if only one teacher attends the meeting. How this squares with the time available is beyond me.
Myself and several of the parents in this intake don’t want a home visit because our kids have a) been at the nursery that is part of the school for the whole year and are familiar with the dining hall, playgrounds etc b) met her new form teacher at an introduction day many of us went to a few weeks ago. Had the school had the sense to ask parents if they wanted a visit, they could have used their resources more efficiently and offered parents who wanted one, an earlier FT start. In these straightened times for school funding, I’m not impressed resources are being wasted in this way.
Anyway, if you’ve read this far, we’re getting to the nub of the matter. Interested to hear what the rest of the parents at my school thought, and having heard the dismayed views of a few, at such a long ‘settling in’ period, I sent out an email yesterday.
The response I got was pretty much 50/50 split between those who said they are fine with it, pointing out the benefits of a gentle introduction and those who thought it was a nightmare and going to cause them considerable difficulty.
Now I might be wrong but I doubt it, and suspect that many of those replying to say the system worked fine for them fall into a number of fairly privileged camps – those lucky enough to have a nanny, those lucky enough to have only one parent working or those of sufficient means that a load of extra child care costs doesn’t impact them at all. And then I started thinking, well that’s not really fair at all is it? You have a policy here that makes life difficult for the lowest paid among us. Some of the responses I got sounded really quite distressed at the prospect of juggling work/study and childcare over this period, and I totally felt their pain. Some very fairly and equitably said words to the effect of ‘this works fine for me because of my circumstances but I can see how it might be awful for some people and would happily support a revised arrangement that suits everyone’, which is a great attitude.
At the other end of the spectrum you had people blithely saying the system was ‘perfect’ and ‘works for all’. Er well no it’s doesn’t. Not unless by ‘all’, you mean the privileged groups I’ve described. Perhaps this individual meant ‘People like us’ when referring to ‘all’.
Anyway, those from outside these privileged groups seemed very grateful to have someone willing to fight their corner, so I intend to put as much pressure on the school as possible to rethink how it deals with this.
So, in summary, I’m not suggesting we dispense with any of the sensible settling in measures which are widely used across primaries, but that it shouldn’t be beyond the wit of any school to recognise varying needs among the families attending and respond appropriately. Let’s say half the kids’ parents wanted full time from the middle of week 2 (in this case the 13th Sept), and the other wanted PT until the 25th, would that be so hard to offer? I don’t think so.
It strikes me that this 'tradition' for want of a better word, is one of those things that ‘has always been like this’, in fact for so long that everyone’s given up questioning whether it’s actually a good idea or not, like smoking indoors was for a long time.
For the record, it’s a great school, the staff are wonderful, kind and warm and I’m very grateful my kids will be going there. It’s just a shame that this particular policy seems designed with its wealthiest parents in mind and punishes those of more modest means.
Would be grateful for all or any comment on this from teachers, parents, education administrators, whoever. Even if this does little to affect the autumn process this year, if enough people think this is unfair and needs changing, perhaps we might get an improved process in future? One can only hope…

the parsley song
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Re: Anyone else annoyed at the excessive 'settling in' period for reception in primary school penalising the least well

Postby the parsley song » Fri Jul 21, 2017 2:32 pm

I understand your pain but you'd better get used to it because it happens all the way through schooling - inset days, strikes, half-days at the end of term, long holidays... The teachers seem to think we can all just drop whatever we are doing at short notice. Works great for the teachers but total pain in the BS for parents.

ceecee
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Re: Anyone else annoyed at the excessive 'settling in' period for reception in primary school penalising the least well

Postby ceecee » Fri Jul 21, 2017 2:43 pm

I completely agree with you. It is very hard and expensive to arrange childcare to cover this period for many families. My son starts in reception full time from the 11th as he is autumn born but those who are summer born at our school don't even start until the 25th and then it is part time for a week! I think if I didn't have an early starter I would feel the same as you. I also think my son will be confused as to why his good friend who is in his class isn't actually there for 2 weeks! Our 60 home visits are timetabled over 2 days. It sounds reasonable that with some organising everyone can be happier with tue arrangements at your school.

Bunnypigeon1
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Re: Anyone else annoyed at the excessive 'settling in' period for reception in primary school penalising the least well

Postby Bunnypigeon1 » Fri Jul 21, 2017 4:22 pm

I don't know, at my daughter's school there was no settling in time at all. They went straight for full days from the beginning and I would have absolutely loved a more gentle introduction! It's a private school so somewhat different dynamics, and I understand the challenge a gradual start could pose for some parents, but it's such a massive change for the children that a settling in period does seem more appropriate!

TCEarlsfield
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Re: Anyone else annoyed at the excessive 'settling in' period for reception in primary school penalising the least well

Postby TCEarlsfield » Fri Jul 21, 2017 4:27 pm

I think the problem is that different things will suit different children, and the school has to cater for them all. I am pretty sure my confident autumn born child would be fine going straight into full days, but what about the nervous summer born? The school has been doing this settling in for years and you have to assume they know what is best for the majority of children.
Yes, it is a pain (both my children will need to be picked up at the same time for a week and a half, and it's a twenty minute walk between the two settings), but settling the children for the long-term is what is important.

petal
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Re: Anyone else annoyed at the excessive 'settling in' period for reception in primary school penalising the least well

Postby petal » Fri Jul 21, 2017 4:54 pm

Read your title and first two sentences a post seems too long
All I can say is that it's for the benefit of the child to do a staggered settling in.
This makes total sense and you shouldn't underestimate the big change starting school is.
You would have had child care cover before school steer so a short term cover for settling in should not be the end of the world.
And don't buy your argument of this being an issue of well off vs not.
One could counter argue a proportion of least well off and on benefits for This arguments sake might be at home and able to accommodate even more!

DietCokefan
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Re: Anyone else annoyed at the excessive 'settling in' period for reception in primary school penalising the least well

Postby DietCokefan » Fri Jul 21, 2017 4:58 pm

Hi, I understand your frustration. We now live in Epsom and when we first moved here in 2010, people we knew starting Reception at some of the schools had mandatory half days up to the first half term; that has since reduced to 2-3 weeks. One of the schools, probably one of the two most sought-after in Epsom, does settling in by having half days for 3 weeks but some are mornings and some are afternoons. I've now had children in the school system for 6 years and my observation would be that the schools do not particularly work at the parents' convenience.
With respect to the Home Visit, I don't think this is just for the child's benefit. I think the teachers value seeing your home, and you and your child in it. When my first child entered Reception we had this, and it was in no way optional.
I'm interested that your school appears to offer the younger children the first of the staggered starts. That makes a lot of sense to me and is not what occurred with my first child.
Best of luck.

Flowermummy
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Re: Anyone else annoyed at the excessive 'settling in' period for reception in primary school penalising the least well

Postby Flowermummy » Fri Jul 21, 2017 5:19 pm

In our school (private) it's only a couple of half days and I would have loved a more gentle approach as DS will be among the youngest in the year.
I understand your frustration, but as someone wisely said on this thread, it happens all throughout schooling...inset days, after school clubs that finish a few weeks earlier than the term, etc etc.... it's not easy and you have to plan in advance.

Shamummy
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Re: Anyone else annoyed at the excessive 'settling in' period for reception in primary school penalising the least well

Postby Shamummy » Fri Jul 21, 2017 10:31 pm

I think it seems a bit excessive. Settling in for nursery and much younger kids happens over a couple of days! I get that not all kids are the same, but generally stringing things out with 4 year olds is just a recipe for disaster.

We are in the same boat with September born child not starting until the 8th of September. I plan to take our last out of school holiday right up until the day before to at least try and get something positive out of it!

oab
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Re: Anyone else annoyed at the excessive 'settling in' period for reception in primary school penalising the least well

Postby oab » Sat Jul 22, 2017 8:52 am

I see your point of view and that it is not convenient for you. But it sounds to me like a storm in a cup really ... the important thing here is of course that you are happy with the school and that your child settles in well. You can use the settling in time to have play dates with the other children in the class, and to get to know the teachers, for example.
Different people will have different points of view on this matter, depending on how mature their children are and their childcare arrangements... The point about the least well off being penalised is quite weak in my opinion.

GuyD73
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Re: Anyone else annoyed at the excessive 'settling in' period for reception in primary school penalising the least well

Postby GuyD73 » Sun Jul 23, 2017 12:21 pm

Thanks for all your replies everyone, it’s interesting to see a wide range of views. However, a few of you are slightly missing my point. I’m not saying for a second that some degree of settling in isn’t a good idea, it’s just that it shouldn’t be an either / or choice. Yes, it’s very sensible to have the youngest in first in small groups to help them acclimatize – my younger is a July baby, so next year, this will be good for her but I don’t wish something that’s suitable for me to restrict choices of others with different needs.

It should be perfectly possible for those who wish to start FT days a little earlier to have that option, and for those who wish a gentler build up, to have that too.

And as for my point that this penalises the least well off, it’s very obvious that that’s the case, please explain how that is weak? And yes Petal, I suppose you could argue that someone who does no work and sits at home on benefits should not be inconvenienced and you’d be right, but how many does that apply to? A minute fraction, so it’s a disingenuous comment really.

Extra childcare costs money, quite a lot of money, those with the deepest pockets are inevitably least affected by the requirement to find more money – if someone can pick apart the self-evident logic in that, I’d love to hear it.
And this goes on, to a greater or lesser extent all over the country every year for both the reception and nursery intakes, so this misguided policy inflicts further financial hardship on those who can least cope with it.

For the record too, my family is probably about in the middle of the spectrum – we earn ok but not spectacularly, are lucky enough to own our own flat but it’s a little 2 bed we’re now bursting out of. I say this to pre-empt any accusations (because you do sometimes get them from the more unhinged on here), that I have some lefty axe to grind, I don’t, I just think it shouldn’t be beyond the wit of both individual schools or our education authorities to design and promote a system that works for everyone, and removes this unfairness.

Surely that it not too much to ask?

livegreen
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Re: Anyone else annoyed at the excessive 'settling in' period for reception in primary school penalising the least well

Postby livegreen » Sun Jul 23, 2017 1:38 pm

Most primary schools have this or a very similar practice. Why ? Because it works and the teachers and leadership teams at the schools who have been through this exercise many times know this.

New parents from all backgrounds always think they know best but they are not in a position of taking responsibility for 30, 60 or 90 4 year olds some who will be away from home for the first time.

I suggest you get on and accept this - at the end of the day the school should not change its induction process because it is inconvenient to you.
You are responsible for your own childcare and the school is responsible for the education of all children in its care.

I would recommend you do not question every action the schools take or spend your time working out how many hours primary school teachers work. A primary school teacher will be responsible for 30 children whereas you obviously only have your own to focus on so suggest that is what you do. Maybe spend your spare time looking to help your new school rather than looking to undermine it.

Shamummy
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Re: Anyone else annoyed at the excessive 'settling in' period for reception in primary school penalising the least well

Postby Shamummy » Sun Jul 23, 2017 2:07 pm

I think there is still some way to go for schools to work for working parents. Even if settling in is necessary, it would surely not be that hard to extend the after school care option to cover the working day to help families where two parents are working full time. The current set up basically requires working parents to burn through half their annual leave just to cover the induction process. You can't even start after school care as it doesn't kick in until 3-3:30 and the kids are being sent home at lunchtime!

AbbevilleMummy
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Re: Anyone else annoyed at the excessive 'settling in' period for reception in primary school penalising the least well

Postby AbbevilleMummy » Sun Jul 23, 2017 4:38 pm

I agree that it seems excessive. Our state school does not do this thank goodness! First day is a half day and then it's business as usual. I also think that it's right for parents to speak up especially for practices that are difficult for working parents as they are often over-looked in the state school system. Over the years, our school has listened to working parents and improved a lot of policies in response.

liverbird in london
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Re: Anyone else annoyed at the excessive 'settling in' period for reception in primary school penalising the least well

Postby liverbird in london » Sun Jul 23, 2017 5:08 pm

I think it's completely unnecessary. I'm in the peculiar situation of having children just one school year apart at different state primary schools. One had the home visit, the very very slow staggered half-day starts that went on until the end of September, parents allowed to come into the classroom to settle them in for the first few weeks etc. My other child had the radical drop off at the door with the entire cohort all starting together on the same day. By the end of the first week, the latter had all settled in together and tears had pretty much stopped. The former, with the protracted staggered start, still had tearful children (and sometimes parents!) up until half term. Every time a new tearful child started his or her first day it would set some of the others off...


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