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Autumn term is coming… are you ready?

Helping your child prepare for a new school year

The prospect of starting a new school year will be exciting for many pupils and others might feel anxious after the long summer break.

It can also be a particularly challenging time for parents and carers of children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities. 

Young Minds has helpful information and advice on supporting your child with school anxiety.

Here are a few things you can do to make their return to school as comfortable as possible:

  • Talk to your child about how they are feeling 
  • Encourage positive talk about school and ask them what they’re looking forward to
  • Try not to leave shopping for uniform or stationery to the last minute – we all know how stressful it can be! 
  • Give your child your full focus when they return from their first day back. 

The Young Minds website also has tips for working with your child’s school if your child is having difficulties and finding extra help if you need it.

It might take a little while for children to get used to the change, and there will be ups and downs. Try your best to support, reassure and comfort them, without putting pressure on yourself to make it better.

New sessions to help parents of teenagers and pre-teens

The next series of the highly successful webinars, aimed at parents of teenagers and pre-teens, begins in mid September.

And again, the Let’s Talk Teenagers and Let’s Talk Pre-Teens series’ will tackle a range of important topics relevant to young people today, providing advice and guidance to parents and carers.

The Let’s Talk Teenagers sessions will run on Tuesday 19 September, Tuesday 26 September and Tuesday 3 October.

And the Let’s Talk Pre-Teen sessions will run on Thursday 21 September, Thursday 28 September and Thursday 5 October.

To find out more and to book your place, visit the Let’s Talk Teenagers; or the Let’s Talk Pre-Teens webpages.

Do you know a young person heading to university in September?

Students going to university in September are being encouraged to ensure they are up to date with their vaccinations ahead of Freshers’ Week to protect themselves against a range of potentially life-threatening illnesses such as meningitis, septicaemia and measles.

The three vaccines students should get up to date with are:

  1. MenACWY – protecting against four common strains causing meningitis and septicaemia
  2. MMR – protecting against measles, mumps, and rubella
  3. HPV – protecting against human papilloma virus related cancers such as cervical cancer and other cancers of the head, neck and genital areas, and genital warts

UK Health Security Agency data shows around one in eight new students going to college and university this year haven’t yet been vaccinated against meningitis. The MenACWY vaccine is offered to those in school years nine and ten, but anyone who has missed it can still get a free jab with their GP until their 25th birthday.

Anyone unsure about their vaccine status can check with their GP practice to see if they are up to date. Ideally, students should have any missed vaccines at least two weeks before heading to university. If that’s not possible, they should arrange to be vaccinated as soon as possible with their current GP or their new GP practice if they are moving to a different area. 

Are you entitled to apply for free school meals?

All children in reception, year one and year two at state schools in England automatically get free school meals.

However, if you receive certain benefits, you are encouraged to apply for free school meals when you enrol your child in school, as this can help your school to attract additional ‘pupil premium‘ funding to support your child’s learning.

Please apply through our website, as this is the quickest and easiest way and will result in you getting an instant decision. Alternatively, call our Education Helpline on 0345 155 1019.

Getting more wear out of your school uniform

When it comes to buying school uniform, the costs can add up. The Recycle Devon website has tips and advice to help families plan and get the most wear out of their school uniform.

If it’s a little tight or too short, but otherwise in relatively good condition, can you alter it? Our website has tips to help you. Or could you hand it on to someone else, or sell online or donate to a clothing bank or charity shop?

Websites such as FreeglePrelovedGumtree or Freecycle are all good places to pick up bargains! And many schools offer low cost, second hand uniform or uniform swaps.

You can also find out what the latest deals are on buying new uniform from the MoneySavingExpert website.

Immunisation advice to parents and carers ahead of the new school year

Steve Brown, our Director of Public Health Devon gave the following advice to parents and carers this week ahead of schools returning for the new term.

“Starting or returning to school is an exciting time for children,” said Steve.

“But as they will be mixing with lots of other children, making sure they are up to date with their routine immunisations gives them the best protection from what can potentially be very harmful infections.”

list of vaccinations that your child should have had, by age and by when, is available on the NHS website.

But if you’re not sure if your child has had all of their vaccinations, you can check their personal health record (their red book), or if you have questions, you can contact your child’s doctor’s surgery.

If you have any concerns about vaccinations, you can read more about them on the NHS website.

There are also vaccination tips for parents and carers to help your child’s vaccination appointment go smoothly.

The NHS also has helpful information online to help parents and carers know how long their child should be kept off school when they are ill.

You can read more about this in the story on our news page.

Get a healthy start this Autumn

If you receive certain benefits and are more than ten weeks pregnant, or have at least one child under four years old, you may be entitled to get help to buy healthy food and milk.

If you’re eligible, you’ll be sent a Healthy Start card, with money added every four weeks to buy cow’s milk, fresh, frozen, and tinned fruit and vegetables, fresh, dried, and tinned pulses and infant formula milk based on cow’s milk.

You can also use your card to collect Healthy Start vitamins to support you during pregnancy and breastfeeding and vitamin drops for babies and young children suitable from birth to four years old. 

Find out how to apply for the Healthy Start scheme

Travelling to school

We encourage all children to walk, cycle or scoot to school if they can, because teachers tell us that pupils who travel actively arrive more alert and ready for learning, as well as generally happier.  

Active travel also helps parents and carers stay fit, helps the environment and might save you money. Even if your family can only make the change a couple of days a week, or for just one leg of the journey to and from school, it will make a big difference. Our recycling centres often have bikes and scooters in their resale shops at bargain prices!

If your child isn’t able to walk, cycle or scoot, could they use public transport instead? And if you do have to drive your child to school, please consider parking a ten minute walk away to help keep the school entrance clear of traffic. 

We provide free school transport to more than 16,000 pupils across Devon. Families who qualify should have received information from us regarding arrangements for the new term, and the majority of school bus passes have now been sent out. However, if you have not heard from us, or you have a query, please call us on 0345 155 1019.

Help with childcare costs

The cost of childcare can take up a large chunk of the family budget. Whether you have toddlers or teens, you could get support. 

There are several government schemes to help families with childcare costs, each one tailored to different needs, incomes and children’s ages. They’re not just to help pay for nurseries and childminders during term time, they can also cover wraparound childcare before and after school as well as help during the holidays.

To find out about all the schemes, visit the government’s Child Care Choices website and enter your details to see how you can save money on your childcare.

You can find local family support and childcare providers via our Pinpoint website.

We have a duty to ensure there is enough childcare to meet parents’ needs. Use our online form to tell us if you haven’t been able to find the childcare you need.

Help and advice about what’s next after exams!

Thousands of students across Devon received their A Level, AS Level, T Level, BTEC, vocational and technical qualification (VTQs) and GCSE results this month. 

We are incredibly proud of what learners in Devon achieve through hard work and dedication, and we will continue to ensure that our county is a place that people can thrive and have opportunities to fulfil their potential. 

Whatever the results, there are many opportunities ahead, be that further education, training or employment, and we’ve put together a special edition of our newsletter to highlight what’s available and where to find all the information.