Helping your child start school

It can be exciting and worrying when your child moves from either early years to primary or primary to secondary school.

When your child starts their next step in education, it can be a big change for your family.

It's okay to feel the emotions you're feeling. You may feel anxious, excited or nervous. Most children love to go to school. They'll learn new things, make friends, and have great experiences.

We've put together some tips on starting school with the help of SENCOs, teachers and other parents that you may find helpful.

Start talking about school in a relaxed and positive way. This will help your child start to process the move. Here are some tips to help you:

  • Discuss what will be the same and what will be different.
  • Encourage your child to share any worries they have about the move. This way, you can address them as soon as possible.
  • Use clear language and a commentary of what you are doing and what is about to happen.
  • Look out for any change of emotions including:
    • lowered self-esteem
    • increased anxiety, sadness or irritability
    • acting out or being short-tempered
    • physical symptoms like headaches or stomach aches
    • being unable to fall or stay asleep
    • experiencing muscle tension
    • reduced motivation in carrying out usual activities.
  • Keep in touch over the summer with any children you know who will be in your child's class. If you can, arrange a couple of playdates. This will build up friendships for the new term.
  • Talk about problem-solving, for example, what to do if we are hurt, worried or unhappy. Let your child know to never be afraid to ask for help. Tell an adult if something has happened that made you unhappy.
  • Practice saying goodbye and being away from you.
  • Read stories together about school.

For mental health support visit the NHS mental wellbeing information hub.

Create a scrapbook

Create a scrapbook with your child and include drawings of:

  • the school, entrance and classroom
  • times of the day
  • their uniform
  • their journey to school
  • lunch hall and key staff (who to go to when they need to speak to someone).

School uniforms

School uniform can sometimes be quite challenging for children who struggle with sensitivities or have certain needs. This could be:

  • itchy seams
  • scratchy labels
  • different feeling fabrics
  • requiring tube access.

Each school has their own uniform policy, and we recommend that you contact them directly if you have any concerns about your child wearing particular pieces of uniform.

Let them be involved! Take your child shopping for a uniform, shoes, and other items they will need for school. Get them to try on their new school uniform. It will help them feel comfortable in their new clothes.

You can also purchase school clothing specifically designed for SEND children from high street shops including George at ASDA and Marks and Spencer.

If measuring your child’s feet for new shoes is difficult, you could make a shoe shop appointment for your child at a quiet time.

We cannot provide money to help you pay for your child's uniform. You should speak to your school to find out if they sell uniforms that have been used before at a reduced rate.

Alternatively, Citizen's Advice can offer advice and support on school costs including school clothing.


  • Teach children to flush the toilet and get used to different types of flush.
  • Chat about the importance of good hand washing.

It's a good idea that your child gets to know the school environment. To help:

  • Ask for a map of the school so you know where the rooms are.
  • Visit the school's website to learn more about it. Get to know the new school by attending events, like a summer fayre.
  • To give your child an idea of what to expect from a hot lunch, show them the school website's menu. Teach them how to use cutlery. Make sure they can open packs and unwrap food without help. Why not take them on picnics!

Morning routines

  • Start getting into a school morning routine. Get them used to getting up, dressing, feeding, and washing before you leave.
  • Try visiting a quieter school entrance if your child has sensory issues.
  • Practice the school run in the summer holidays to help your child learn:
    • how they're getting to school
    • what roads they will see
    • the different sights and sounds.

Night time routines

  • Start a quiet chat with your child about the day, then allow them some time alone relaxing before lights out.
  • Give your child clear and consistent cues when it’s nearly bedtime. For example, one hour before bedtime, start some quiet activities like reading or drawing. Then 30 minutes before bedtime, get your child to clean their teeth and go to the toilet.
  • Set up healthy sleep associations.
  • Set up a safe, comfortable sleep environment.
  • Try to avoid screens before bed.

Read further advice from the NHS.

Before your child goes to school, you should look into applying for free school meals.

Helping any child grow up begins with a balanced diet. Children need to eat 3 balanced meals a day as well as snacks to ensure their bodies are getting all the nutrients they need.

Your child might be able to get free school meals if you get certain benefits.

See if you can apply for free school meals.

Depending on your child's needs and age, there are a number of school transport options you can consider.

You should plan how your child will get to school before you finalise their place.

To get additional transport support or free school transport you must apply for it. All Kent families are required to complete this stage if they wish for us to consider them for additional transport support.

View your school transport options.

Getting to know new faces is important and it helps to calm any anxiety your child may have.

With the help of Kent PACT and IASK we have put together some helpful questions to ask how your child's new school will best support them.

The questions will provide you with support surrounding your child's:

  • health
  • education
  • accessibility
  • school progress
  • transportation.

Read our helpful questions.

Key staff members

There are some key staff members your child may meet in September.

Class teacher

A class teacher is responsible for teaching and your child's learning. You will meet your child's teacher before they join the school. It's a good idea to get to know your child's teacher and how they can support them in the first year of primary school.

Teaching assistant

A teaching assistant often works with smaller groups of children or on a one-to-one basis. Some may have taken extra training to become a higher level teaching assistant (HLTA). This means they can cover and teach their own lessons.

The headteacher

The headteacher has overall responsibility for running the school. They report to the school's governing body, which includes a parent governor representative.

A nursery nurse

A nursery nurse gives support to teachers to help children with their learning, play and social development.

A special educational needs coordinator (SENCO)

SENCOs are qualified teachers. They are responsible for assessing, planning, and monitoring the progress of your child. Find out more about SENCOs.

A school nurse

They are part of the school public health service who provide health support and can refer your child to specialists.

Find out more about other professionals you may meet.

Settling into school can take a few weeks. You know your child best, so don’t hesitate to speak to your school if you have any concerns. They are there to help you and have supported many parents in your situation.

Your child may:

  • feel more anxious and may tell you they have stomach-ache or a headache to avoid school. It can be helpful to speak them to see if anything is worrying them. If you can’t get to the bottom of the problem though, please tell your school so they can talk to them.
  • be more tearful and clingy for the first few days, which is quite normal.
  • be more exhausted at the end of the day - let them have some quiet time or even a nap when they get home. If they’re hungry, a healthy snack and drink can help restore energy levels.

It's a good idea to keep the first few weekends into a new term free, as they will likely need to recharge their batteries. Once they've started to get used to the structure of the school week, you can arrange days out and activities as a family.

You have a duty to make sure your child attends school regularly.

Children need to attend school on a regular basis, as it's key to them doing well at school and sets them up with good habits from an early age through to adulthood. It also gives them the opportunity to:

  • make lots of friends and feel included
  • boost their social skills, confidence and self-esteem
  • achieve their full potential.

However, children with special educational needs and disabilities are more likely to have lengthy or repeated periods off school compared to others in their class. This could be because of their:

  • frequent hospital visits
  • condition flaring up
  • immune system
  • mental health.

You must inform the school when your child will not be attending and the reasons why. If you are worried about your child's attendance at school due to their long-term illness we can support you.

Find out more about school attendance, absences, truancy and exclusions.

Timing of the school day

Most schools start the day between 8:30am and 8:50am and finish after 3pm. This includes an hour lunch break, and often a mid morning break. Some schools offer early morning clubs and after school activities.

Visit the school's website to find out the timetable.

Term dates

The school year runs from early September to mid or late July of the following year. Find out the school term dates.

Private or independent schools set their own term dates.

School closures

Your school may need to close due to an emergency or bad weather.

Register to receive free email alerts about your school's closure.

Don't forget to look after yourself too. The first couple of weeks before and after the start of the new term can be stressful for some.

Make sure you:

  • don’t forget about your own sleep routine
  • support your mental health by exercising and making time for whatever it is that makes you happy
  • try and sort out after school child care in advance of term to save you stress during school time
  • carve out a child-free hour or two some evenings when the children are in bed.

For mental health support visit the NHS mental wellbeing information hub.