Sarah's at the ready for new arrivals

27th October 2006 at 01:00
It was time to listen to some of the newcomers - a teacher and some children - so at Hearsall primary, in Coventry, I visited Year 3 to talk to Sarah Watts, who was just seven weeks into her first teaching job.

What hit her first about the job? "The sheer workload," she says. "I knew there would be a lot of work, but for the first few weeks I was in a daze of sleepiness."

Ms Watts visited Hearsall before the summer holidays and urges new teachers and their schools to have as much contact in the previous term as possible.

She appreciated being invited to social events beforehand, and the support of staff has been crucial in settling her in.

"I found it difficult to assess children when I didn't know them," she says. "But I talked to their previous teachers. The really good thing here is that you can ask people without feeling embarrassed."

Now, she's sorting out her time management and things are easier. On her classroom wall is a display with named photographs of all her pupils. She did that before the holiday and came in knowing their names. "The thing I've found easiest of all has been the relationship with the children," she says.

That resilience thing also cropped up when I went to Canon Maggs junior, in Warwickshire, to see Holly and Josh Langford, nine and eight, who moved there from Whitecrest primary in Sandwell in the summer.

I talked to them to find out what might help other families on the move. I discovered it was important to the two youngsters that their last day at their old school had left them with good memories to share.

"I had an iced lolly," said Josh. "And the teachers made giant cards and everybody wrote in them."

Holly, too, had a special memory. "My friend Sophia was meant to be at a wedding but she came to school specially to bring me a present."

The effort that Whitecrest staff made to say goodbye was vital. Young children miss their teachers - some research likens it to a bereavement. It was also important that both children had been to an induction day at Canon Maggs in the summer term. They were paired up with buddies, shown around, made to feel at home, so they could look forward to the start of term.

Back at home, mum Lesley agreed and stressed the importance of the induction day. "It's a big door-opener," she said. "Josh and Holly were talking about their new teachers all through the holidays."

Mrs Langford feels parents perhaps worry more than the children, and that parents may tend to make judgments based on their own adult experiences.

"As an adult, when you go to a new job you're really nervous," she said.

"We tend to think that children are going to have those sorts of feelings, but really they're so adaptable. I think maybe they just get stuck in."

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