His exciting journey has just begun
I creep into the hall as the meeting is about to start and sit near the back.
It is for parents whose children will join our nursery in September, and the children are invited, too. Some hover by their mothers; others chat to friends they know. A few wander around, exploring the new territory. A babe in arms makes a lot of noise and her parent hurries her into the corridor.
Some years ago I would have introduced the meeting, but these days Katie, my nursery teacher, does it. I employed her three years ago. She is petite, quietly spoken and came straight out of college, and we wondered whether she would have the stamina for this challenging role, which included introducing the early years foundation stage into the nursery, with assistants who were not totally convinced by it. But she was a hit from the first moment and she has never had a day off since. It is a pleasure to visit her nursery, which I do frequently. The children thoroughly enjoy their hours there, too.
The hall is well stocked with parents and there aren't enough chairs. A dad fetches some children's chairs from the corridor, prompting smiles as he tests one to see if it will take his weight. A mum arrives with two children, plus scooters. She parks the scooters by the door and the children on chairs, which they climb down from immediately. As she tries to catch her offspring, another child eyes the scooters and moves tentatively towards one. He glances at me and I give him the furrowed eyebrows. He thinks better of it and retreats.
I smile at a little boy, bright-eyed and alert, sitting near me. He is dressed up for the occasion and he gives me a huge, friendly grin. "What an amazing smile," I say. "Lovely to meet you. What's your name?" "Benjamin" he replies, settling comfortably into his seat and grinning again.
Katie begins her talk, saying that her assistants will take the children to the nursery while she explains everything. Virtually all the children go, but Benjamin stays. He wants to listen. Katie explains that she will be moving to a Reception class in September and there is a murmur of disappointment from the parents who know her well. But the newly appointed nursery teacher is introduced and within minutes she has charmed the parents.
Knowing how worried parents can be when their children start school, Katie carefully explains what will happen and how parents can help make starting school a real success. By the time the children begin nursery, their homes will have been visited and they will have spent some time with us, so settling in is invariably straightforward. She mentions that education takes place outside as well as in, and children will be expected to go out in all weathers. A mother turns to her friend and mutters: "If she thinks my Cindy is going out in the rain, she's got another think coming." I've heard this before, but I know that when Katie eventually explains the learning experiences that take place in the rain, the mother will change her mind.
At the end of the talk, the parents are invited to join their children in the nursery to explore and ask questions. "You can join the chaos if you like," Katie whispers to me, but I decline as I need to work on the scenery for the school play.
Benjamin climbs off his chair to follow the crowd, eager and excited. He is about to start a truly exciting educational journey. I'm right at the end of mine - but I hope he enjoys it as much as I have.
Mike Kent is headteacher at Comber Grove Primary, Camberwell, south London. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.