Starting school – a Danish rite of passage

I hadn’t realised what a huge rite of passage starting school in Denmark was. I don’t recall there being a lot of fanfare about starting school when I was a child but there certainly is here.  

Like a lot of parents, expats included, this week has been the time when our children are starting primary school here – almost two years later than their counterparts in the UK (an subject I plan to write about soon). We were told by the school that today was to be a short first day for our son and that parents were encouraged to stick around. I assumed from this that we would wander aimlessly about the school but it soon became clear that this morning was something of a big deal. In fact in the email from the headteacher she repeatedly referred to today as a celebration.

Even before we arrived at the school an encounter with a woman at the bus stop showed the importance Danes place on this day. She asked if my son was off to school, he proudly told her it was his first day. She smiled fondly at him and really genuinely said what a big day it was and wished him luck and enjoyment on his first day.

We got to the school at the designated time and were greeted by the older children lining the way to the auditorium, waving flags of all nationalities and wishing the newcomers good luck with big smiles. This was such an amazing and, again, genuine expression of real welcome and inclusion. They then sang a welcome song with such pride and everyone was delighted. There was such a feeling of community in the truest sense of the word and I believe this welcome made, what can be, a daunting and scary experience so much easier for both parents and children.

I can see from my Facebook feed tonight from other parents here, that this way of doing things is the Danish way of marking this rite of passage and creating a positive first experience. For me it was unexpected and made the day really memorable and wonderful for both my son and me. I hope it sets the precedence for his future in school.



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