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New role created to support children starting P1 at High School of Dundee

Nikki Whyte will support pupils starting P1.
Nikki Whyte will support pupils starting P1.

Starting P1 can be daunting for any child, no matter how many times they have visited their school beforehand.

And to help support children with the move, the High School of Dundee has appointed its first ever early years transition practitioner.

The role, which aims to ensure every child experiences the best from their transition from nursery to school, was appointed to Nikki Whyte who took up post last month.

Having worked at the school nursery as an early years practitioner for eight years, Nikki says she was delighted to take on the new role.

She said: “It’s an exciting opportunity, there isn’t anything like this anywhere else.

Nikki Whyte working alongside some P1 pupils.

“I’m currently in the nursery working with the children, getting to know them really well and preparing them for starting school – it’s a big change in their life.

“Then in August when they go to school, the big school as we call it, I will start school with them.”

Nicky will assist with classroom activities and be present in the playground and lunch hall – offering the children a familiar face and teaching style.

She will remain present with the then P1s until Christmas, and after the holiday season she will return to nursey to repeat the process with the next group of children.

‘I know what children question when starting P1’

Nikki says her nursery background stands her on good stead, as she’s learned over the years the types of questions children have about starting school.

Some of the biggest changes which she helps prepare them for are:

  • Sitting at a desk
  • Playing in a large, open playground with mixed age groups
  • Eating lunch in a big dining hall
  • Carrying a backpack and having their own pencils and jotters

She said: “These things are all a bit different to what the children are used to in a smaller nursery setting.

“They might seem like small things to us, but it often gets forgotten that children have no experience of school.”

As part of her prep work with the kids, Nikki will take them on visits to the school and carry out role play games and activities as if they are in school.

And she will visit children who are due to join the school from other nurseries at their current facilities to establish relationships prior to their arrival.

Support for families too

Nikki’s role is also to support parents, guardians and carers through the process of children starting school.

“Every year parents have a lot of anxiety about children starting school, that is always there,” she said.

“Knowing who I am and that they can come to me at any point will be a comfort to them and I can help settle their nerves.

Nikki Whyte will support pupils starting P1.

“Things are slightly different this year. There have been less experiences for children and activities where they are with new groups of children without their parents which might cause them to have a little more anxiety.”

And that is part of the reason why head of the school’s junior years, Julie Rose, created the new role of transition practitioner.

She said: “We took the decision to create it because of the importance of ensuring that every child can build upon their nursery experience, and have as smooth a start as possible in school.

“These early years are a crucial period to establish firm foundations for holistic development and the optimum wellbeing of a young person, so the value in having a role that is devoted to ensuring that each child receives the best transition experience possible cannot be overstated, especially following on from the pandemic, which has brought so much uncertainty and change for our children.

“Being able to make the move to school with a member of staff they know and love, will, we hope, ease some of the concerns that parents and children can naturally have about changing environments.”

What is deferred entry to primary school and how can I apply for my child?

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