The Head, Nicola Huggett

New term... new shoes... new pencil case... new child?

For quite a while before the start of the new school year, it is all up to you. There is the uniform list to negotiate (try to go through the uniform list with a current parent or older pupil to see what they think you don't need to get straight away), new shoes to order and all those other elements of preparation. It is expensive, but it is a straightforward "to do" list that as a parent you can tick off one by one and feel happy that you have done your bit.

But starting in a new school is a leap of faith both physically and emotionally. You can buy all the new pencils you like but how do you help your child negotiate those first few, far more important challenges like fitting in, making friends, choosing what to have for lunch, avoiding getting horribly lost? You teach them, by example, that they can trust school.

Above all, one thing I have learned is that the more anxious I am as a mum, the more anxious my children are. Firstly, I have to resist the temptation to spend the entire journey to school on the first day going through my mental checklist and asking them if they have got this, or that or the other . To be honest, when we are 20 minutes from home, are we really going to turn the car around and go back for it? If not, then what is the point of worrying the rest of the way? In the end it is important not to panic about what you haven't got and just to remember that school will have all these things, lots of them, and all your child needs to do is be honest and ask.

Secondly, on your first (or your twenty fifth) day of dropping off, don't expect your child to want to throw their arms around you in full view. I have been one of those mums at the school gate left with my arms outstretched for one last kiss as my son anxiously puts as much distance between me and him as possible. They still love you even if they don't want to kiss you goodbye in front of their potential new friends.

And thirdly, try not to have a post mortem of every day, in detail, the minute they get in the car door. School is a very tiring place inevitably and trying to curtail our parental need for information about what they have been doing in every minute (because we are used to knowing that and knowledge is power!) is very hard.

It is better to do four things as a rule. Give them a confident smile (to show you have every faith that whatever might have gone wrong will be fine), a hug (out of sight of their peers), something to eat and ask one question "What went well today?". That way you can show you trust the place and the people you have entrusted them to, and that will mean your children will too. That's probably the most important first step.