As Hampshire schools get set to reopen on 1 September, the County Council is reminding local families of the support available to help them transition to going back to school this year with ease.
Councillor Steve Forster, Hampshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Education, said: “We know that the return back to school can be an especially busy and sometimes overwhelming time for children and families alike. Getting ready early and involving children in the preparations can help to take the stress out of the process, supporting children to get the very best out of this exciting new chapter.”
Here are the County Council’s top tips for a great start to the new academic year:
- Who said there’s no such thing as a free lunch? All children in Key Stage 1 (Reception, Year 1 and Year 2) are eligible for universal infant free school meals. Families are encouraged to take up the offer of a healthy, nutritious hot meal during the school day. This can help to boost children’s wellbeing and support them to get the most out of their time in the classroom. Information about school meals is available from individual schools.
- From year 3 onwards, free school meals continue to be offered to children whose families receive certain benefits. Eligible families should register for income-based free school meals as soon as possible – this can be done even while their child is still in Key Stage 1. Checking your eligibility and applying for income-based free school meals is easy – simply go online.
- HC3S, the County Council’s own school meals provider, serves a high number of Hampshire schools. Check out their guide to free school meals for parents and carers with children starting Reception in September, or follow the HC3S Facebook page for useful information and tips on school meals and nutrition. Families can also view HC3S menus on the HC3S website, as well as FAQs about free school meals.
Travelling to school
- The start of a new school year is the perfect time for families to think about the school journey and where possible, to adopt more active habits like walking, cycling or scooting to school. Take a look at the My Journey website for lots of active travel tips and a range of useful information and resources for families with children transitioning to Reception, Year 3 or Year 7.
- Still need the car? One alternative is to ‘park and stride’ by leaving the car further out from school and walking the remaining distance.
- Consider using public transport to travel to school. This can help to reduce the overall number of cars travelling on the road and is particularly good for older children who are able to travel independently.
- Don’t forget, safety first! For information and advice on road safety, visit the County Council’s website.
- The return to school is always an expensive time but, with the cost of living on the rise, many families are likely to feel the pinch even more this year. Visit the County Council’s cost of living webpages, the Connect to Support website and the Connect4Communities website to explore a range of support for families struggling with their finances.
Mental health and wellbeing
- Establishing a positive relationship with school from the outset can help to ease any anxieties children may have about starting or returning to school, and to avoid potential challenges with school attendance. Follow these useful tips to support regular school attendance. For issues with attendance, families should speak with their child’s school at the earliest opportunity to discuss the support available.
- Families concerned about their own or their child’s wellbeing can visit the Mental Wellbeing Hampshire website to access a directory of both local and national support. The Back to Basics website also provides a range of tips, resources and links to further support, to empower parents and carers to support their child’s emotional wellbeing within the home.
Other helpful resources include:
- Kooth – a free, safe, anonymous online counselling and emotional wellbeing support service for 11-25-year-olds in Hampshire – no referral needed
- ChatHealth – a free messaging service for parents and carers, as well as children and young people aged 5-19 to text a School Nurse in Hampshire
- SHOUT – a free service which provides 24/7 mental health support by text – text HANTS to 85258
- Health for Kids and Health for Teens – information and advice on topics that affect children and young people, such as puberty, relationships, body image, and sleep
- The Solihull Approach – free online courses to help all parents and carers living in Hampshire to understand their children, read their behaviour, and look after their emotional health