My child is starting school!

This time last summer, I was eagerly awaiting the start of Reception for my daughter. I remember having such a mix of feelings; excitement, worry, joy, sadness, nostalgia. It felt like such a big jump for such a little person and I wanted to do the best I could as her mummy to help her have a soft landing! Here are some top tips for parents of school starters to help prepare your child for this big change.

jengaSpecial Time, and play, play, play!

Make sure you find 5 minutes every day to play with your child in the run up to school starting, following their lead with their favourite toys, staying present, quiet and fully focused, creating a calm unpressured environment for connection and support. Your child will need this now more than ever, as it will help them feel regulated and have space to communicate with you about whatever they need to. Also it’s a great time to make the most of your days together, before life gets very busy in September!

Play will be the main way your child will learn in Reception, so it is good to get them ready by creating lots of opportunities for them to explore objects, words and imaginative ideas. Welcome opportunities to play together, whether at home, out in nature, or in the car!

sofaTalk about it!

Your child will hear this word ‘school’ everywhere in the weeks approaching their start date, but won’t really know what to imagine! You can help them by taking small calm moments in the day, using simple language to describe to them things they might experience at school.

“In the morning you will all sit down on the carpet”

“You will have your own peg with your name on it”

“You will walk in a line with your class to the room you eat lunch in”

“Your friend Charlie will be in your class, you can sit together”

“When you want to say something in class, you might have to put up your hand like this”

“Your teacher’s name is Mr Jones”

If your child has difficulties understanding language, why not use photos (stock photos from the internet would be fine!) or draw pictures together. You could make a visual timetable together, sticking pictures in order to show how a typical day might look.

Take walks together

Walk past the school; show your child the front office, the gate they will go in, and the playground they will play in. Take the walk to school a few times to get them used to it, make it feel familiar, and help your child imagine what it will be like.

Get them involved

Do practical preparations together, e.g. packing their school bag, laying out their uniform, preparing their lunchbox. Label the objects as you do this and talk about what they will use them for. This will give them a feeling of independence that will prepare them for the classroom, and also help them recognise their own things.

Acknowledge emotions

On the way to school, if your child screams, cries, runs away, pushes back or says they don’t want to go, this is probably the only way they have to express that they are feeling anxious, or experiencing some separation anxiety. They will feel best comforted if you recognise their feelings by saying “I’m sure you feel nervous/sad/worried”, and then reassure them by saying something like “I will be here waiting for you at the end of the day”. You might be feeling quite anxious too, which is completely normal! Notice your own feelings, but try to show your child steady confidence that everything will be OK.

I remember on the first day of school for my daughter, she bounced and smiled all the way, but then when we reached the queue to go in she started to cry. She told me she felt like she didn’t know what to say to other children after they said hello, like she was lost for words. I hugged her (which helped comfort my own emotions in that moment too!), said that I related to that same feeling when I meet new people, and reassured her that once she was inside and playing she would know what to say. She came out grinning and excited to go back the next day, and every day after that.

In early weeks there will be wobbles, maybe lots of them, and there may be days that your child doesn’t want to go to school. But most days they will be contented and happy to see you at the end of the day. After a few weeks, once your child knows the school and the school knows your child, it will all begin to feel like normal life for everyone.

Freya Brett

Early Years Speech and Language Therapist

Summer Holidays 2021 Countdown and Holiday Planner

Our Speech and Language Therapist Emma Anstee has created a Summer Holiday Countdown Calendar to help your child understand how long the holiday lasts for and when they need to go back to school. It can help prepare your child for starting school again and to settle back in to the school routine.

The next part of this calendar is a way for you to plan activities over the summer holiday with your child.
This can help your child to understand when an activity will happen and also help them to know what they might be doing on different days.

The full calendar can be downloaded by clicking on the link below:

Deaf Awareness Week 2021

Happy Deaf Awareness Week!

Here is a link to a fantastic children’s TV show called Magic Hands, which is presented by four profoundly deaf presenters. Some of them use BSL and some use talk and sign:

Additionally, check out this great article by our Speech and Language Therapist Martina Curtin (Homerton University Hospital NHS Trust and Deaf Instructor Helen Pine (Hackney Education).  It highlights the importance of connecting with the Deaf community and viewing sign language at an equal status to spoken language.

Hackney Education awarded Placement of the Year Award for Speech & Language Therapy by City, University of London

Hackney Education has been awarded Placement of the Year for Speech and Language Therapy, as part of City, University of London’s Practice Excellence Awards 2020. The awards celebrate and reward the outstanding achievement of practice providers, and the contribution of practice colleagues who provide support to City students learning in practice.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been the defining global health crisis of our time, and in a virtual message of congratulations, Professor Debra Salmon, the Dean of the School of Health Sciences, and Judy Brook, the Associate Dean for Partnerships and Placements, praised the incredible commitment of staff, students and practice partners to work collaboratively to ensure the education of our next generation of healthcare professionals.

Project Search Intern’s blog by Donell Walter

I am Donell a project search intern from Hackney. For the past 10 weeks I have been working with the Hackney Speech & Language Therapy team and I have written a blog which you can read here.

Day 1

I started the speech and language placement today with an open mind as I was introduced to what the placement has in mind for the next 10 weeks and what is speech and language in general with my mentor Jenny.

This placement is the first I have ever done online so it was a great opportunity for me but also for my mentor and my fellow colleagues at speech and language Hackney to see how this placement will work out. If successful it will open the gateway for other people who have a disability like me to have the same opportunity that I have.

Day 2

I worked on a project with my mentor jenny on how to improve speech and language social media accounts as it is important nowadays to have online presence, particularly in lockdown. I gave my feedback on their social media accounts and how they could be improved.

Day 3

The best thing that I did today was the website project. The website project is about making changes to the Get Hackney Talking website so that it benefits young people like me in the future. The website project involved me giving my opinion about the website and asking young people themselves about how to improve the website as whole. I have learnt loads of new skills doing this website project such as using software to produce a questionnaire which will help the speech and language website team to make changes.

Day 4

Earlier today I prepared a presentation on powerpoint about my internship.

In the afternoon I done a presentation to the speech and language team about who I am as a person, what is my internship about and how me being in the team is going to improve speech and language in the future. I presented my presentation on zoom to about 88 speech and language therapists which is an achievement to me as I have never done this before especially virtually as well. The new skills that I have learnt is how to do PowerPoint slides to a high standard and learning how to present presentations on zoom.

Day 5

Today I met more of the speech and language therapist team virtually via zoom as it’s necessary for me to know who the other members of the team are and what speech and language therapists do daily. This has really helped me understand how my work as an intern will help and benefit the young people in Hackney. The difficulties today were the technical problems during the meetings especially when important information is being said. The new skills that I have learnt is booking and doing meetings virtually via zoom.

Day 6

Since my time as an intern with the speech and language department I have been speaking to some therapists about youth justice and the connection that youth justice has with speech and language.

In addition to it I had a meeting with a barrister about youth justice and the system which I found really interesting and it helped me to understand better.  Also, I learned about his job as a barrister and how that’s been affected by the coronavirus.

I think it’s very important for people of all ages but especially young people to understand how this system works as it is essential information that is not known to a lot of people. As a result I created a quiz so that people can brush up their knowledge about the youth justice system with an easy quiz.

You can take a look at the quiz here.

Understanding what  youth justice is and how the system works is really complicated for anyone who isn’t in criminal justice to understand it and it is hard to find the information as there are so many bits of information for one specific topic.

Day 7

Today is my final day as an intern on this project. This placement has been a real learning curve for me as a person who had speech and language therapy in the past to see the behind the scenes of it. I am very grateful that I had an opportunity to work with the speech and language team in Hackney to improve the services that young people will use in the future. 

The only two problems that I could think of is just understanding the task fully and technical problems that I had during the placement since I was working from home.

On this placement the new skills that I have learnt is….

  • To book meetings on google meets and zoom and present them
  • I leant things about how speech and language work in a more in-depth
  • Learning about user experience
  • Learning about youth justice system
  • Learning about how digital marketing especially in social media works
  • Dealing with data
  • Learnt how to use WordPress and Surveymeets
  • Know what a blog is and how to write one.
  • How speech and language links to crime
  • Different types of speech and language therapist

I am very grateful that I had an opportunity to work with speech and language to improve the services that young people will use in the future.

From D

Word Aware Success In Hackney Secondary Schools

A pilot study in one of our Hackney Secondary schools led by Word Aware Trainer Emma Eaton-Rosen has shown promising results for the use of the Word Aware programme within the English curriculum for Year 7 students. Word Aware originated in Hackney with its authors Stephen Parsons and Anna Branagan although previously it has been little used in Secondary schools despite the increasing vocabulary demands year after year.  

In this study students were taught using the word aware programme and resources for a term and showed improvements on their ability to recognise and define a variety of targeted words. The confidence of students also improved.  Teachers reported that they had enjoyed using the approach and were using it more widely than with their Year 7 cohort. 

Although inevitably due to Coronavirus there were some barriers to overcome we are very excited to continue to expand the use of this evidence based approach for all students to support vocabulary learning.

If you are interested in knowing more about word aware or how it works please get in touch using the email address 

World Autism Awareness Week- 29th March- 4th April

This week is World Autism Awareness week. The coronavirus pandemic has been particularly tough for many autistic people and their families. Services have closed and many people have been left stranded. The ever-changing guidelines and restrictions can be confusing to understand and extremely difficult to implement for autistic people with high support needs. 

There are lots of events happening throughout the week to celebrate and raise funds for building an awareness of Autism and Hackney is celebrating Autism as a superpower. It has been asking students to produce a piece of work about what their superpower is.

Test how much you know about Autism using the online quiz here

Sign Language Week 2021

As part of Sign Language Week, our Speech and Language Therapist Martina Curtin (Homerton University Hospital NHS Trust) and Deaf Instructor Helen Pine (Hackney Education) have created this great video in British Sign Language (BSL) to discuss working in Hackney, London and the importance of raising awareness.

If you don’t understand sign, you can add the subtitles by clicking on the CC button:

Associated links:…