Next week, hundreds of Dundee children are set to embark on a whole new adventure as they start nursery and primary school.
It’s a time of excitement for local youngsters, with new friends to be made and experiences to be had.
However, it can also be a time of trepidation – of separation from parents and a first taste of true independence.
For two of Dundee City Council’s education workers, it’s a common and entirely normal situation.
Dawn Banks, early years parent development officer, and Joyce Gaechter, education officer for 0-5-year-olds, acknowledge that school brings about a lot of changes.
“Starting nursery or school is a big moment in children’s lives, and their families’,” Joyce said.
“Being around your family for an extended period and that changing is big.
“Giving over your most precious gift to someone else is a huge responsibility for us.
“It can be quite emotional when a child goes to nursery for the first time, including for the parents – and that is normal.”
Dawn said: “We want to support the whole family and begin a relationship with them.”
The council encourages parents of children starting nursery or primary school to get involved in the process at the earliest opportunity to alleviate any fears.
In nursery, children have a single “key worker” who will be their main carer and the point of contact for parents.
“Get in touch early, tell us about what your child likes doing,” Joyce said.
“We can arrange nursery visits ahead of time so your child can see the environment.
“But there’s lots you can do at home as well – talk to your child about the nursery and what it means, share books with them about going to nursery.
“The important thing is to be really positive about it – you can’t project any anxiety you have onto them.”
Dawn said: “The relationship between parent and nursery school should mean feeling secure and relaxed about your child’s time there.
“The staff are there to help and support – and at nursery everything is play-led, so one of the best ways of helping them to prepare for nursery is by letting them play.”
Above all else, the pair stress the importance of listening to children, and engaging with them about education.
After all, a good start can lay the foundations for a lifetime of learning.
“Parents just need to be mindful that children will take as long as they need to adjust to nursery,” Dawn continued.
“Some will just go in and be OK. Others won’t, but that’s OK too. They’ll get the lay of the land at their own pace.
“They might be a little upset but if they continue to be our staff can let you know – we won’t just let them stay that way.”
Primary school can be an equally dramatic shift for children, moving away from all-day play towards set playtimes, dining halls and school uniform.
However, with measures such as pre-term visits and half-days to gently ease them into the new routine, they should settle quickly.
And there are all sorts of things that can be done at home.
“It can be anything like practising with gym kit or helping them to learn how to do up the buttons on their shirts,” Dawn said.
“And if there are ever any concerns or issues, pick up the phone and speak to the school.
“Anything you’re not sure about just ask the question.
“At the end of the day, we just want the best for the kids and in terms of outcomes we’re all working towards the same goal.
“It’s an exciting time for all children, starting school for the first time.
“It’s a great opportunity for change and a chance to do so many different things – and we can never lose sight of that.”