Relocating from the hustle and bustle of daily city life to the peace and tranquillity of the countryside has become a popular choice for increasing numbers of homeowners, in part fuelled by popular television programmes such as Escape to the Country, in which families are helped in their search for the perfect rural retreat. Certainly, relocating from the city can have huge benefits for you and your family including a more favourable outlook, safer roads and more open space in which the children can play.
However, if you’re relocating to a rural idyll with youngsters, one consideration to take into account is how to ease their transition into a new school. Rural schools are likely to be quite different to the city establishments with which your children are familiar, often being considerably smaller with a much less diverse ethnic make-up. Some educationalists believe that moving a child to a new school can delay their academic progress by approximately six months, so it pays to do everything you can to help ease them into their new school as smoothly as possible.
Arrange an advance visit
Before your move is complete, take the opportunity to allow your child time to visit their new school, initially with you and then for a few hours on their own. Schools usually have a positive approach to helping newcomers integrate and the opportunity to meet the class teacher, headteacher and other children in the class will prove to be invaluable, especially if your child can start to forge some early friendships.
Ask if the school can arrange a ‘buddy’ for your child and, if their family is open to the idea, arrange to meet them during weekends or school holidays. Locals will often welcome new arrivals to their village, so embrace any opportunities that are offered.
Get involved in village life
Living in rural England is quite different from the city. It’s hard to be anonymous and you’ll discover that your neighbour’s faces will appear frequently in a variety of places, from the local pub to the school playground.
This can definitely help your child to acclimatise and settle into their new school. By making friends outside school – at the football club, for example, or in the family dining area of the village pub – your child will start to establish roots in rural life that will be hugely beneficial to cementing their place in the classroom hierarchy, especially if class sizes are smaller than those they are used to.
Allow time for everything to fall into place
Expecting your child to settle straight into their new school will only place undue pressure on them if they feel all at sea to begin with, so emphasise that settling in will take time and patience – both for you and your child. Feeling uneasy about being in a new place is natural, especially when there’s a completely different way of life to learn about as well.
Explain that your child may well be a source of interest for the other children, especially if they have different accents, and that this is a positive thing rather than a source of anxiety. In general, children tend to be quite open-minded, especially at younger ages, so your child should be able to blend in easily, as long as they don’t expect to feel at home in their new school after their first day.
Starting a new school should be part of the rich learning experience of relocating to a rural locality, so taking some simple steps to make the transition as smooth as possible for your child is vital to giving them a positive experience of life in the countryside.