Starting childcare and school

Content supplied by NHS Choices

Starting childcare

When your child starts childcare, it can be difficult for you and them. However, there are ways to make the transition easier.

Tell your childminder or nursery all about your child

They’ll need details about their routine, likes and dislikes, feeding habits (particularly if you’re still breastfeeding) and so on. When you leave or collect your child, try to make time to talk and find out how things are going.

Make sure that you and your childminder or nursery workers agree on important issues

It’s important that you take a similar approach to things like discipline and potty training.

Allow your child to get used to it gradually

If you can, start by leaving your child for a short time and gradually build up the length of time that you leave them. You might begin leaving your child before you go back to work.

Support and reassure your child in every way you can

The early weeks are likely to be difficult for both of you. A regular routine and a handover that’s as smooth as possible will help.

It’s perfectly normal for your child to cry when you leave, but the crying usually stops once you’ve gone. Don’t hang around and, once you’ve left, don’t go back. If you said you’d be back at a certain time, make sure you are.

Share the experience

Chat to older children about what they’ve been doing while you’ve been away and talk about the person or people who look after them. Show them it’s all part of normal life and something to look forward to.

Make time

Whatever else you need to sacrifice (like the housework), it’s vital to make time to spend with your child when they’re at home.

Don’t feel guilty

Evidence shows that children do well in high-quality childcare. There’s no need to feel guilty about not being there all the time.

If you’re worried about the quality of care, do something about it as soon as possible. Contact the Ofsted Early Years helpline on 0845 601 4771 for advice on how to make a complaint.

Starting school

Even children who’ve been in childcare can find starting school a big step.

Talk to staff at the school about ways to help them settle in. They should be able to give you some suggestions.

In some situations, extra support and reassurance may be needed. For example, your child may be one of very few black children at a mainly white school, or the other way round. In this situation, talk to the school before the start date about any problems that could arise.

Find out how the school will handle any problems, make suggestions yourself if you want to, and explain your child’s needs. Talk to your child about it too.

The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)

Legally, children must start formal education no later than the beginning of the school term following their fifth birthday. Many infant and primary schools admit children to their reception classes when they’re four years old.

If you’re offered a school place for your child when they’re four but you would rather they started later in the school year, you can ask the school to defer entry. But you must take the place during that school year. You can’t hold on to it for the following year.

Schools can only offer a certain number of places so start looking early. You can get a list of local schools and information about them from your local education department.

Since September 2008, all Ofsted-registered Early Years and childcare providers, and all maintained and independent school reception classes, must use the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS).

The EYFS is a structure of learning, development and care for children from birth to five years old, which enables children to learn through a range of activities.

The EYFS ensures that:

  • children learn through play,
  • providers work closely with parents,
  • your child’s learning at home is taken into account,
  • you’re kept up to date on your child’s progress,
  • your child receives a high-quality experience regardless of the type of setting they attend, and
  • the welfare, learning and all-round development of children with different backgrounds and levels of ability, including those with special educational needs and disabilities, are taken into account.

For an introduction to the EYFS, call 0845 602 2260 and ask for a copy of the leaflet It’s Child’s Play (reference 00640-2008LEF-EN). You can find out more about EYFS at the Directgov website.


NHS Choices

Published Date 2010-07-23

Last Review Date 2009-07-28


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