Every year in England, over half a million children start school. It’s a time of transition and change for every one of them, and schools have staff and strategies to help them settle in. Some children, however, need extra support. Sarka was just one of many children facing extra barriers to learning, but thankfully her SHS Practitioner was able to step in and help her whole family.
“Last September, Sarka, aged 4, was struggling to settle into school. Sarka had delayed speech and language, so she was struggling to engage in lessons and make friends with her classmates. She was also becoming increasingly frustrated as she was unable to express her feelings and emotions through her words, and this was negatively impacting her behaviour. Sarka was also a very fussy eater, so she struggled at break and lunchtimes, and we were concerned about her nutrition and health. She was struggling with the new school environment, as it was so different from anything she had experienced before. She didn’t want to come to school, and her parents were struggling to manage the situation.
Her class teacher and keyworker reached out to me because they knew that I could offer the support that Sarka needed both in school and at home. I knew it was crucial that I supported the whole family to overcome some of these difficulties, before they impacted Sarka’s attendance, or further prevented her from learning.
I arranged to speak to Sarka’s parents, who confided in me that they felt helpless – thankfully, I was there to work with them to form a plan. It was immediately obvious that Mum had a language barrier, which was preventing her from engaging with school, and causing her a lot of anxiety as she felt unable to help Sarka settle into school. I reassured her that I would refer her to a local project offering help and support for those with English as a Second or Other Language so that she could work on her English.
We identified steps that Sarka’s parents could take to help her settle into school, including communication and healthier routines, for example around bedtime. I also secured a referral to a project which would allow the family to explore different healthy foods together, providing an engaging way for them to develop their social networks while improving Sarka’s nutrition, and encouraging her to try new things in a fun and safe environment.
I explained to Sarka’s parents that the school SENCO (Special Educational Needs Coordinator) would need to be informed of Sarka’s difficulties and that Sarka could benefit from working with the school’s Speech and Language Therapist. I went back to the school and spoke to both the SENCO and Speech and Language Therapist – Sarka now benefits from regular one-to-one speech and language therapy, as well as group work which has had the added benefit of improving her social skills and supporting her to develop more friendships! I also worked with Sarka’s keyworker, to make sure we had consistent strategies to help Sarka, for example, if she felt overwhelmed or was struggling to explain how she was feeling.
Sarka is now well-settled at our school. She has made some good, supportive, friends, and has the confidence to challenge herself, for example by trying new foods! Mum found the ESOL classes really helpful, and both of Sarka’s parents are engaged with her school and learning – they have become familiar faces at different workshops I have run, and do everything they can to ensure Sarka is supported to succeed at school.
Sarka made a fantastic amount of progress throughout Reception, and is now described as “jubilant”! It is a pleasure to reflect on what a difference a year has made as she enters Year One a confident, happy, and settled little girl, able to engage in lessons and learn so that she can reach her potential.”