The first day at a new school can be nerve-wracking for both children and their parents at any time, but especially in 2020.
Our policy of offering a half-day of leave to Aviva parents aims to help make a child’s first day at a new school that little bit easier for the whole family.It's more than 160 days since schools closed their gates and pupils were sent home at the beginning of lockdown in the UK. Spring quickly turned to summer and now as autumn leaves begin to fall, children are heading back to school full time.
Aviva mum Tory shares her experience of family life in lockdown and how she used the half-day of leave this year.
A different school year in so many ways
I’m Tory and work in our global internal communications team as an editor. I have two children - Arthur (9) and Rose (4).
Rose started reception last week. She was excited to start, whereas I was more apprehensive than I was with Arthur. She’s an August baby so she will be so much younger than the other kids, not necessarily in what she can do, but socially. And this school year will be different in so many ways.
"This time, I handed my child over and that was it. Normally I’d be there to settle her but, this time, I couldn’t be."
Preparing for the new year was a challenge. The school sent us things to do, and there was a virtual tour of the building online. We recently had a Zoom call with Rose's new teacher. That was nice. But this time, I handed my child over and that was it. Normally I’d be there to settle her but, this time, I couldn’t be.
The remote world doesn’t work quite as well for children as it does for adults, in terms of learning and interaction more generally. On Zoom calls during lockdown, my kids didn't know what to do. They express through play, rough and tumble. I've noticed that when Arthur's met up with friends since, he’s had to re-emerge from his shell.
Life in lockdown
At the start of lockdown, my team recognised how difficult it was to work and homeschool simultaneously. They took a lot of pressure off my shoulders and allowed me to focus on looking after my children.
"Then the oppression hit: the normal wasn't coming back any time soon and there wouldn't be any nursery."
Lockdown came in stages. The first stage was 'got to get through this, get organised, print worksheets'. Then there was a period of ‘we’ll look back on all this time together!', making random art, filling the time with meaning. There was a lot of ‘intentional memory making’. Then the oppression hit: the normal wasn't coming back any time soon and there wouldn't be any nursery.
There's also a period of getting to know your kids. It's fantastic to have had the lovely times I wouldn't have had otherwise, but ultimately, adults don't play the same as other kids do. Arthur got bored of me, which I completely understand. You don't spend THAT much time together normally.
Marking an important milestone
I worked for Aviva before this policy. I remember taking Arthur’s first day off as holiday. I found his name on his peg, walked him to the classroom and read a couple of pages of a book. These moments really matter. That’s why this policy has a hugely positive impact. I feel proud that we take notice of these things.
Embracing ‘the new normal’ aside, the first day in a new school is an important milestone for children and their parents too. Exciting but a little daunting, it’s an emotional day all round. The fact Aviva appreciates the importance of parents being able to take time out to make those special memories, memories that last far beyond the first day itself, into tomorrow and beyond, means a lot.
The leave also exists alongside other family-friendly policies, helping people who work at Aviva to strike a better balance between work and life outside it. These policies demonstrate us living our purpose ‘with you today, for a better tomorrow’, supporting employees and those dearest to them long-term.
While I couldn’t walk Rose into her classroom and help to find her name peg this year, taking the time off to be totally present on her all-important first day made all the difference.