How to ease your child into secondary school- by a control freak mother and teacher of 25 years.
As the summer holidays come to an end parents of year 6 children all over the country will be having similar feelings and worries. The transition from primary to secondary school can be a tough one for parents and children alike. Parents can feel as though they are loosing their baby – well that’s how I felt! It is a strange feeling when your children start secondary school as you want them to be more independent but still worry about how your child will cope with the increasing and varied demands of secondary school. The obvious worries are the larger size of most secondary schools; will they get lost; will they make new friends; will they manage to organise themselves; will they cope with the increased academic rigour of new subjects; more homework; travelling to school; how will you get in touch with the right people in school if there is a problem. The list can seem endless.
My experiences as a mother, who has been through the transition and as a teacher for many years means that I have seen this period from both angles. I have been a year 7 tutor many times and a Head of year 7, but it wasn’t until my own son started secondary school that I really understood parental concerns. It made me a much better and more empathetic form tutor! You may remember your first day at school but it is likely things have changed – no matter how young you still are! As a parent it is harder in secondary school to understand the systems and know how things work. But keep the same approach as you did with your child’s primary school- get involved, be interested and supportive and communicate with the teachers about any worries and questions you may have. The big difference will be the range of subjects and teachers that your child will have and it is important that you are equipped with the names and contact emails of these teachers just in case.
Even though you want to give your child independence- be careful of letting them do everything themselves from the start. A gradual phased approach is the best and keep checking and asking them and engaging in a dialogue about school, lessons etc. Always help them pack their school bag the night before and then double check secretively yourself before school too. Keep a close eye on the school planner as this is the organisational bible.. encourage them to write notes in it and to make sure homework is written in with deadlines so you can see it – its not just for your child! Write notes to class teachers and form teachers in here and encourage your child to show and share it with the teacher- which itself can be daunting for your child.
PE kits can be a new world of pain- an extra bag with lots of kit, the conundrum of what to take on what day. Use your family planner to record what PE kit needed for the first half term on which days so you can easily refer back to it when the PE panic sets in! Always label all your child’s kit, uniform and equipment – you may even get items back if they go missing.
Be prepared to do mad dashes to the shop after school to supplement supplies – pens etc. but get a stockpile of stationary that can be used when things get lost and run out last minute. Make sure you have the name and contact details for your child’s form tutor and head of year in case of any concerns, as these are the best people to approach. If you get no joy then make sure you know the chain of command in the school as you may need to get answers and responses from line managers higher up the school – so find out the contact details for the assistant head or deputy in charge of pastoral matters.
Some other organisational tips to consider:
- What to carry books in to school ? A large rucksack – not so large that it will break your child’s back, but big enough for all the books for the school day to fit into -most schools do not have lockers.
- Plenty of pens, pencils, pencil crayons, rubber, maths equipment and calculator
- long 30cm ruler, a note pad for any extra notes to be made, water bottle, plastic book covers
- the most important is a plastic wallet for their books to go into.. at some point there will be a water bottle leak or pouring rain that then wrecks all their books and if they are in a heavy duty plastic bag/ folder there will be no damage
- All children panic a bit at the thought of secondary school – they may not show it- but there will be some anxiety. Make sure you help diminish this with calmness and being organised with all that they need for day 1 at school. Get the bag sorted and go through any information given by the school with your child.
- Make sure they know the school systems and uniform code- don’t let them wear earrings or have coloured hair if there a school policy on this- it sets your child up to be in trouble from day 1 and is not the best introduction to a new school.
- This may also be the first time you allow your child to have a mobile phone- make sure it is for emergencies only and try to instil in them the need to not rely on it. All schools have a reception where students can use the phone to get in touch with you so there is no real reason why they would need a phone in school. But obviously for lifts home and public transport it can be useful. Try to make sure that it isn’t used for games and the obvious social networking and messaging that can be all encompassing when parental freedom is given. So many issues arise in secondary schools with improper use of social media and bullying connected this. Think carefully about how you will monitor and encourage sensible use of this.
- You may find the tutor is like me and writes in little comments in the planner – there is nothing better than a parent that writes something too! It shows to your child that you are still communicating with the school over even trivial matters! It keeps you connected to the school and tutor who will be your first port of call for any issues you may have.
- Copy their timetable several times- one for in the blazer pocket- laminated if possible. One on a public space in your house so you can easily check the lessons for the day. And a spare of course!
- Always pack the bag the night before and always do homework the night it is set
- Get a homework routine – a short break when in from school then homework done. Which then allows the rest of the night for other hobbies, family time and relaxation
- How to get to school can also be a big source of worry for both parents and children. If they are using public transport make sure you have done the route with them over the holidays and write down any instructions that may need – as they may forget if they are a bit worried. It may help if they can go to school with someone else they know which will help avid the worry of not having any friends or anyone to stand with on the first day
I found allowing my son to think he was being independent while at the same time checking stuff behind his back – worked a treat! But rest assured most children settle in very quickly and within the first half a term it is as if they have always been there.
Extra resources and information can be found at :
https://lookatourbook.co.uk A novel has been written about the transition aimed at year 6 students.
For more information on where to buy / ideas on what items to buy and a transition activity booklet please email us