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PACEY helping children start school with innovative Starting School Together project

Children in Cambridgeshire and North Yorkshire have started the new school year with a smile on their faces thanks to the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years’ (PACEY) innovative project, Starting School Together.

Funded by a grant from the Department of Education, the project aims to support children and their families with the transition from early years into reception class at school, while encouraging childcare professionals, schools and families to work together in helping children make the transition into full-time education.

Starting School Together began in April this year, following research that showed 71% of parents were anxious about their children starting school, and that one in four (23%) felt they received too little information from schools and local authorities.

Currently running as a pilot cross four schools: two in Skipton, North Yorkshire, and two in Littleport, Cambridgeshire, with sixty families coming forward in both areas of the country to take part in the initiative, the programme will continue to support the children through their first two terms.

Following an independent evaluation by University College London’s (UCL) Institute of Education (IOE), the plan is to roll out the project across the rest of England from next year.

Starting School Together supports families with educational toys and resources, face-to-face meetings, staged over the summer as ‘tea parties’, and through online guidance and support; while information about how well children are progressing is shared between parents and teachers via a secure online forum.

Liz Bayram, Chief Executive of PACEY, said: “The Starting School Together project is already proving that strengthening the partnerships between parents, childcare professionals and teachers can really help children make a positive start to school and also ease the anxiety felt by parents.

Initial feedback suggests that parents are finding the programme hugely beneficial, and I very much hope we can now look towards rolling it out to other areas.”

Headteacher of Skipton Parish Church VC CE Primary School, Mrs Ellen Woodthorpe, said: "The project is great for parents to help their children to build their confidence, wellbeing and readiness for engagement in learning at school. It also helps school to know the children better as they begin to start their learning journey at their new school."

Charlotte Follen, whose son Leo is involved in the project said: “A tea party was arranged with the school and parents to support the children’s with the transition into starting school, which was really helpful for us, as it gave us the opportunity to ask questions and raise concerns.

We’ve loved being involved with this project, I found the support network with the other parents especially useful, as it has enabled us to meet people and make friendships before school even starts, so as Leo begins school there are people there who he recognises and feels at ease around instead of feeling lost and scared.”