420 teaching hours ago, 50 children, aged between 4 and 8 years old, walked through our gates, ready to embrace new learning experiences and challenges. 11 children, in particular, walked through our gates for the first time; the veritable start of their educational journey.
The first five years of a child's life are fundamentally important; pivotal to future success. They are the foundation that shapes children's future health, happiness, growth, development and learning achievement at school. Children learn more quickly during their early years than at any other time in life. They need love and nurturing to develop a sense of trust and security that turns into confidence as they grow.
The litmus test for a successful start to school life, I believe, is the measurable difference in confidence with which children enter the school gates in the morning. Starting school is an undoubtable challenge; a challenge that, as adults, we often fail to appreciate. There are new skills to learn, a new environment to negotiate and new friendships to forge; no day, in fact, will be the same. Becoming fully accustomed to school and its routines takes some time.
In September, children in our Reception class arrived at school, wide-eyed, yet reassured by the closeness of their parents; some less willing than others to explore their new environment without the comfort of a familiar face. 12 weeks later, however, these same children run in excitedly to school each morning to find their friends. The fact that these children so readily consider themselves a valued part of the Wandsworth Prep community is strong testament to the school’s nurturing ethos and a direct result of our teachers encouraging children to be positive, confident individuals with a life-long learning love of learning. It is this confidence that will enable children to fulfil their potential and be whoever they want to be and go wherever they want to go.
How the tables have turned; it is often the parents of our Reception children who now stand a little forlorn at our gates.
It is eighteen years ago, almost to the day
A sunny day with leaves just turning,
The touch-lines new-ruled – since I watched you play
Your first game of football, then, like a satellite
Wrenched from its orbit, go drifting away
Behind a scatter of boys. I can see
You walking away from me towards the school
With the pathos of a half-fledged thing set free
Into a wilderness, the gait of one
Who finds no path where the path should be.
That hesitant figure, eddying away
Like a winged seed loosened from its parent stem,
Has something I never quite grasp to convey
About nature’s give-and-take – the small, the scorching
Ordeals which fire one’s irresolute clay.
I have had worse partings, but none that so
Gnaws at my mind still. Perhaps it is roughly
Saying what God alone could perfectly show –
How selfhood begins with a walking away,
And love is proved in the letting go.
Cecil Day-Lewis 1962