Here at BSKL, our Early Years teachers know just how to support not only the child, but the whole family through this potentially anxious period which may well be full of other transitions too, such as a new house, new jobs, away from extended family and in a new country with different traditions, cultures, food, languages etc.
We have approximately 56 different nationalities represented at BSKL and a significant number of different languages spoken by our staff, so we are expertly equipped to support new students who start with very little, if any, English. One of the three Prime Areas of Learning in the Early Years curriculum is ‘Communication and Language’. We therefore provide a language rich environment ensuring that we offer as many opportunities for children to practice verbal interactions, both formally with language being modelled by adults, and in social situations. It is important that children are exposed to new vocabulary as they need it to support their developing use of English.
Starting a new school mid-term can be tricky as it is often daunting for the new child to enter a classroom where the other students are confidently and independently moving between their morning tasks and self-selecting activities with their friends. The adults in Early Years are experienced in taking on the role of a peer for our new students who join us mid-year. The adult will (like a friend) escort them around the classroom and introduce them to a small group of peers and quickly engage them in an activity which encourages communication and interaction, but does not necessarily require any verbal contributions from the new student. A relaxed start to the day will put the new student at ease and allow them time to observe their new surroundings and become familiar with a small group of children first. The adults will be keen to find out as much as they can about the new student so that they can involve them in activities which match their interests and build their confidence.
It is important to point out that a successful transition takes time and effort from all parties involved. Communication begins prior to the child starting school, with our Admissions team handing communication over to the class teacher so that preparations can be made for a smooth start. We encourage a pre-starting school visit when the family will be provided with a personal assistant to guide them through the process of purchasing the uniform and will include a visit to the classroom to meet the teacher and Assistant Teacher. This will help to build excitement about the forthcoming start and ensure that the family know where to come on the first day. These initial introductions also enable us to determine the level of support needed, for example if we recognise that the family are new to English, where possible, we can recruit the services of another member of staff who can help translate.
Often we find that the parents need this translation support for longer than the students as young children pick up the essential language that they need to play, make friends and interact with their peers very quickly.