Nearly three quarters of parents have cold feet about school

New research shows parents have high level of anxiety about their children starting school

In September, over 600,000 four year-olds will start school for the first time and new research from the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY) shows most parents feel anxious about their child starting school.

The survey, of over 2,000 adults, shows that almost three quarters (71%) of parents were anxious about their child starting school for the first time in September, with close to half of parents (48%) more anxious than their child about starting school.

The parents surveyed were most concerned about their child making friends (36%), followed by settling into a routine (23%) and being the victim of bullying (15%).One in ten of parents age 18-24 are worried about increased academic pressures on their child.

PACEY has created a new set of resources to help parents equip their children with the key social, emotional and physical skills to thrive at school. The resources, based on PACEY’s existing training and continuous professional development (CPD) support for childcare professionals, include a ‘Preparing for Starting School’ guide, factsheets, videos and activity sheets available at and also available via Netmums.

An overwhelming majority of parents (71%) surveyed believe that their childcare or early education provider has played a significant role in preparing their child for school. A fifth (21%) thought they played a ‘very significant’ role.

PACEY is working on a new project this year that helps improve children’s transition into school by developing partnerships between childcare providers, families and schools. Starting School Together, funded by a grant from the Department of Education, is running across four pilot sites in Cambridgeshire and North Yorkshire and focuses on children from disadvantaged backgrounds and BME communities. Families are being supported with toys and resources, face-to-face meetings and online contact to help their children prepare to start school. 

PACEY aims to roll out Starting School Together as a model of best practice to encourage greater partnership between early years settings and schools across England.

Liz Bayram, Chief Executive of PACEY, said: “We know that the first day of school can be a real cause of anxiety for many parents. Childcare professionals play a key role in supporting children and their families to prepare for this important transition in life, and it is clear from the research that this vital role is recognised by families. Our Starting School Together project is already demonstrating that strengthening the partnerships between parents, childcare professionals and teachers can really help ensure children make a positive start to school, and can also help alleviate the anxiety felt by parents.

“We also hope, thanks to our partnership with Netmums, that more parents will be aware of the resources PACEY provides to help support parents and children, not just in their child’s pre-school years but in the weeks and months that follow them starting school.

With the recent report from the Children’s Society showing that England’s school children are among the unhappiest in the world, PACEY is renewing its call for a focus on emotional wellbeing in Government education policy. This year children starting school will be tested on their maths and literacy skills at a time when helping children to settle in and make friends should be the priority for teachers.”    

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