Early years tips
Those halcyon first years at school are also a crucial learning time. So, how best can you enthuse and encourage your youngsters without going overboard? Lottie Rogerson, principal of Pre-Prep at Cottesmore School at Pease Pottage has some tips.
What’s the most important thing to do for children this age?
Let them be children! It’s such a growing time for children physically, emotionally and academically and every child has their own pace.
They will always learn to read and write but not necessarily at the same time as the person sitting next to them, so don’t pressure them. The more you pressurise a child the more they don’t want to do it – as every parent has found out whether that be their child reading or putting their shoes on! It’s a gentle, personal evolution. We have high academic standards but allow each child to reach them in their own time.
What do parents tend to worry about that isn’t so important?
Don’t fall into the trap of comparing progress between children. Each child learns at their own pace! We will support the children each step of the way while communicating their child’s progress with their parents.
We can push a child to the next level but not in a way that is unfair or in a strict manner. For instance, everybody gets spellings and the top ones will get two or three more added on the end. Some will get 7 out of 10 not 10 out of 10 and that’s also fine.
What can parents be doing at home?
If you do maths with them, make it fun – go and count fir cones or squirrels.
Encourage children to read (but not on a device) though devices are not a bad thing, they are an excellent learning tool.
10 minutes watching Blue Planet or Seven Worlds, One Planet, or videos on YouTube can teach children about the world and other people and how other countries look.
If your child is going to a pre-prep and prep school like ours they’re probably in a privileged situation, so I think it’s key for us to teach them about other situations.
Outdoor learning is very fashionable these days. How valuable is it?
You’re not only pumping their lungs full of fresh air, it’s resetting their brains. They’re freer, not bound by books. They can look around (which, of course, we tell them not to in class!) it’s teaching their brains to expand.
We are very lucky to have 35 acres of our own land including a lake, we also have a covered area outside the reception class.
We have a forest school as an after school club and in summer it’s timetabled. They come back into the classroom fresh minded and enthusiastic. It also helps them to appreciate the environmental side of things.
How early should children be introduced to technology?
From reception here every class has children’s computers. Use of a keyboard and mouse are important – a mouse teaches fine motor skills. We also have a bank of iPads for lessons like maths and interactive white boards. But it’s not all encompassing. We still teach them how to hold a pencil!
At home, tech is good for certain skills but shouldn’t be the one and only thing they do.
There are excellent games for maths and English and educational videos. My boy knows an awful lot about nature from watching videos on YouTube – he can tell you ten things about snapping turtles I never knew!
They should still be going outside in the mud and reading books though.
How do you smooth the move up the school?
We have our Year Three in Pre-Prep, they go up later at eight. We feel our Year Three are still quite young and need to be in the more pastoral environment of Pre-Prep.
When school finishes, three days a week they then play sport with the Prep School, it helps make that family feeling.
They also have a move up day and an overnight boarding taster. They not only know the children above them but the new staff and where to go in prep school.
It’s infiltrating them gently – it can be a big shock going up and being more independent, especially if you’re a summer baby and some of our Year Eights are six foot!
We’re a very sociable school so parents can come in on match days and meet the staff and look around.
What kind of questions should parents be asking at school open days?
I always say it’s very much like buying a house, if you like the feeling when you walk in, you’ll like the school.
Ask about the after school care and clubs – do the children just watch videos or are they doing something else?
What’s the child to adult ratio?
What are the extra curriculum activities during school hours – for instance do they teach children swimming?
How important are these formative years in school?
Children at this age are like sponges, they just soak up information and excitement about the world so it’s our jobs to give them that wonderment and not to put boundaries on it.
We’re lucky that as an independent school not being tied to the national curriculum we are able to veer off what we’re planning and make a diversion if something occurs that a child is particularly interested in.
Children should just be interested and hooked into learning.
Cottesmore has a Pre-prep and Prep school Open Morning on Saturday 29 February 2020 (10.00 -12.00) cottesmoreschool.com