Tag Archives: uniform

The Girl has started school (and why half days should be abolished)


The Girl has started school.
The last of my brood of four has been slung into the compulsory education system, which will dominate her life for the next 14 years.
Surprisingly, I didnt cry, but more surprisingly, she did.
Now I’m not by nature a sobber, but each time one of our three sons started school, I found myself having a sniffle once back in the privacy of the car. This time, as she was bouncing around with excitement and settling easily, I was almost punching the air. ‘That’s IT! She loves it, and no more childcare fees!’ No lump in the throat, no fizzy nose.


The Boys and The Girl ready for school

She’s been in nursery at least a few days a week since she was three, and luckily for us the nursery is on the same site as the school, so she will continue to see the staff at the after- school club with her older brother, who is almost nine. (so I lied, there will actually still be some childcare fees, but not as much).
But because of this archaic and frankly annoying system of ‘transition’ in primary schools, where new kids only attend half days for the first few weeks, we are having to put her back in to nursery during the afternoons.
This completely threw her on the first day, and she sobbed, because she wanted ‘to be in school like Billy’. The next day she cried on the way in and wanted to stay home. All very out of character.
She fell asleep on the way home on the first two days and cried several times. This has thrown me, as the boys had to be dragged away from school and barely gave us a second look.
We have been asking her during bedtime chats why she cries but she doesn’t seem to know.
So, sticking to form, I’m trying bribery: a cry-free day might mean a nice surprise (she’s had her eye on that Lego for girls).
I think the half days are disruptive. It’s even worse for other parents. I know plenty who have had to take unpaid leave FOR A MONTH because the child needs collecting at 11.30, or 3, or dropping at lunchtime.
Plenty of reception teachers and nursery nurses think it’s unnecessary too.
Yes, there are four year olds who have been at home with a parent for four years, who might need time to adjust.
But most will have had some experience of nursery, and the routine of education. After all, free nursery halfdays start at age 3.
So why do so many schools insist on this ridiculous staggering of the reception intake?
There must be some evidence that it isn’t necessary or even in the interests of the children. I know at least two Northampton schools who have abandoned the half days and just start them full-time, all at the same time.
By all means admit them a day after the older kids if it helps, but please, just get them in and let them get on with it. Fewer tears, less confusion for them, less anxiety for us.

What do you think? Feel free to comment below . . .

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Tips for the first weeks at school

Bill's first day in 2008

NAMES in new uniform: tick. Packed lunches: tick. Bedtimes put back considerably earlier: tick. Alarms set: tick.

That’s about as organised as I get for the new school term.

I wish I was one of those parents with itineraries and chore charts and online family diaries. But I’m not.

Our three boys returned to school this week and I think they were grateful for some order and routine. The holidays have seen far too many erratic mealtimes and bedtimes that have been entirely based on what mood Bloke and I were in.

If you’re new to the world of sending your offspring to school, this is going to be an emotional week. You’ve probably been more organised than you ever thought possible, trying to ensure your son or daughter’s first days in formal education are stress-free while your own paranoia reaches epic levels.

Letting them see you worry is not good.

Helping them understand what is expected of them is key to getting them settled in.

They want to be there on time, have the right stuff (and by that I only mean uniform and lunch, definitely not brands) and start to recognise their new routine, expected behaviour and surroundings. This is why the transfer day they had before the summer was important.

All you can do once you hand them over to teacher is smile, wave and try and make it to the gates before you blub.

Even though I’m ten years on from that first child, first day at school moment, I still get stressed when the new school year starts. Mostly it’s about how to get the precariously-balanced timetable of untested events slotted into place.

From various school runs and fitting extra activities around normal life, it takes a good month for the dust to settle.

It gets easier. Once upon a time I too spent hours sewing name tags into everything. then I discovered the speed and indeliblity of a Sharpie marker. One surname in everything, to allow for hand-me-downs. (Unless there are several families with the same name).

A board of some kind is useful just to remember where the heck everyone is. We have an old Ikea blackboard that will be scrawled with the words ‘lunches’ ‘football’ ‘rugby’ ‘reading’ ‘homework’ ‘kit’ ‘swim’ ‘drama’ ‘phone’ ‘washing’ alongside the usual jumble of grocery reminders and random days of the week. Then Bonnie will fetch a step-stool and wipe it all off while no one’s looking.

The first weeks are exciting. Then it all start to slip.

There are going to be times when you forget things. There are going to be times when your kids forget to tell you things.

There will be a lot of very tired and grumpy kids around during the next few weeks as they adjust to it all, whatever their age. Trust me, all parents go through this. You may even enjoy some time to yourself.

Good luck, it’s only six weeks until half term!

Here’s a few tips that may help:

  • Make sure you check their bags for letters every night (don’t rely on them to bring things to you).
  • Use your phone’s alarm/calendar/diary to set yourself reminders.
  • If you have concerns, don’t try and fight for a teacher’s attention at the classroom door when he/she is trying to get 30 kids in/out. Ask at the office for a phone call, appointment or send a sealed note in your child’s bag.
  • Establish bedtimes. It’s easy to lapse now and then, but reception-aged children need 10-12 hours sleep. Teens still need at least eight hours. Don’t be soft about this and allow habits to develop.
  • Don’t give them the third degree as soon as you pick them up. A simple ‘What did you do today?’ may elicit an outpouring of over-information, or they may shrug and say ‘nothing.’ Don’t push it. They may talk more once they’ve eaten or heard about what the rest of the family has been doing.
  • Do be prepared to listen to what may appear to be the most trivial event when you’re in the middle of something else. If you brush them off with “not now,” you’re cutting off communication. (Exceptions: if you are on the phone negotiating a forgotten bill, manhandling hot pans or on the loo).

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My little sew and sews

YOU can tell it’s getting towards the end of term in our house when the sewing kit comes out. I say ‘sewing kit,’ but I actually mean a reel of black cotton with a needle stuck in it. We might also have a spool of white, somewhere. Despite being descended from good Northern stock for whom sewing and knitting seems am effortless joy, I’m not one of life’s darners. However, when you have three sons who play football on Tarmac playgrounds, and school trousers cost around £14 a pop for the older boys, it can get expensive. First it’s the hems that go, usually in the first couple of months. I sew them up, usually too tightly, giving a slightly ruched look. Then it’s the knees. I’m not great at patching worn holes, but I can handle a clean tear. And I even sewed myself a pouch on a string to hold my stupid new mobile phone for when I don’t have pockets. Usually, you have to buy a few ‘official’ items like sweatshirts, blazers and sports kit from the school, and then can buy generic trousers, shirts, polos, dresses, skirts and shoes. Back in September, our eldest, Jed, was given his blazer, tank-top, tie and sports kit as part of the deal to turn his school into an academy. The blazer seemed big on him then, and I hoped it would last a couple of years. But already the sleeves have started to look too short. He’s on his second pair of shoes (third if you count the black trainers he borrowed from his brother to tide him over until the Easter holidays). He came home last week with a massive tear in the backside of his only school trousers (two pairs bought, one lost). “I was playing football at break and I stuck my leg out too far. It was embarrassing, as a load of girls were standing behind me, if that’s any consolation” Two days later Dougie, whose official uniform cost £100 back in September, rang me after school. “Can you pick me up? I’ve got a big hole in my trousers. I’ve had to put my sports shorts on underneath.” Yes, he too was playing football at breaktime. The elder boys’ trousers were split on the seam, so were easy enough to sew up. Double stitched. Not neat, but hopefully strong enough to last them for the last few weeks before summer. As I was sorting the washing at the weekend, I found Billy’s school trousers. They have a hole in the knee. Probably from football. I’m not good with holes. I’m sure he won’t mind doing the last half term in shorts. . ?

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Nametags, uniform bankrupcy and whether it’s right to see your children as a social experiment

MY poor children’s lives have already been over-exposed for many years via the ramblings of their mother on newspaper pages, but the new term throws up interesting potential for analysis.

I will have three children in three different state schools across Northampton.

One will be at a controversial new academy, another at an vastly-oversubscribed, catchment-less, single-sex secondary, and the third at a large urban primary without his older brothers.

Three schools also means three different uniforms. All which need name tagging(*shudders).

Up until now, I’ve got away with hand-me-down uniforms and the simplest naming technique for impatient mothers with few sewing skills: the permanent fabric pen.

When the boys were all at the same primary, naming wasn’t a huge job.

1. Find label on new polo-shirt/sweatshirt/trousers/PE kit

2. Write surname on label.

Now we’re dealing with a whole lot more clobber.

The two older boys have new blazers, house colour tags, ties, white shirts, tank-tops, trousers, rugby shirts, rugby shorts, football shorts, t-shirts, boots, trainers and sports socks.

I’m going to have to dig out the iron, or needle and thread, to get names into items that just don’t lend themselves to the easy charms of the marker-pen. Like ties. Or socks.

This means grumpy late-nights for me before they go back (on three different days) later this week.

I was dreading paying for new uniform, at a time when we’re more skint than ever.

However, it could have been worse.

Jed’s new uniform – and that of 1,000 of his schoolmates – has to be paid for by the government because it agreed to turn Malcolm Arnold nee Unity nee Trinity into an academy. The sixth form, who have to wear ‘business suits,’ are getting a voucher or refund for £40.

It would have been galling to shell out again after the £60 or so spent last year on the now redundant purple Unity uniform (suggestions on what to do with it welcome. I’ve already planned a scarecrow for my allotment). We collect the new stuff later this week.

Meanwhile, over at NSB, the costs came in just under £100 for pre-badged blazer, tie, and various bits of sports kit.

Thank goodness little Bill doesn’t mind his hand-me down uniform. He’s happy with three new yellow polos that cost about a fiver. All their trousers came from a 3-for-2 at M&S.

Two pairs of shoes had to be replaced towards the end of last term, so they’ll have to last until Christmas.

So we still need one pair of shoes, several white shirts . . . and lots of blinkin’ name-tags.

But if you think this sounds pricey, how about a friend of a friend in London? She’s just forked out over £300 for compulsory school uniform. . .for ONE CHILD!

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