Do you have a child who is about to start Secondary school?
Are you concerned about how they will adapt?
What if they are unable to settle?
What about bullying?
I have put together some advice to enable the transition to be as smooth as possible. Many students will possibly have spent some time at their new school, since most schools now start the new academic year in the last few weeks of the Summer Term in July. This is an excellent idea to alleviate students’ anxiety during the long Summer holiday. However, it does not always happen.
The transition to secondary school is a significant milestone in every child’s life. They will go from being ‘big fish in a small pond’ to ‘little fish in a huge pond’. Secondary schools can be exceptionally daunting in terms of the size of their buildings, the amount of students, teachers and personnel, and the changes in teaching style from being used to one or two teachers, to having a different teacher for each subject. There are new subjects to study. New rooms to familiarise themselves with. A difference of teaching style. A timetable. Even teachers find secondary schools daunting places at first. There are so many new people to meet, from the students to the teachers to the support staff. If your child moves up to a school with their primary school class-mates, then it is doubtful they will be with their friends. Most secondary schools place students in tutor groups randomly and so it is vital to take time to listen and reassure them that all children feel this way before starting secondary. Friendships can take a while to develop and so your child may feel anxious at first.
If I were to give you one vital piece of advice it is this. Children mature at different rates. Boys appear much younger than girls in the transition change. What might work for one child will not necessarily work for another. The transition can be incredibly smooth for some students and yet incredibly difficult for others. You know your child more than anyone else. So, if you feel that your child has issues that a secondary school need to be aware of, then do not worry about alerting staff to them. As huge as secondary schools are, there should be a list of staff to contact if you are concerned. Some of these staff are academic and others may have more of a pastoral role. Do not feel that you are being over-protective. Schools need to be made aware of any issues that you are concerned with.
KEEP AN OPEN DIALOGUE WITH YOUR CHILD’S SCHOOL
As much as possible, try to open a good relationship with your child’s pastoral lead. This might be an academic form tutor. Some schools appoint non-academic tutors or Heads of Year. Keep a good relationship with these members of staff. It might just be a simple email to state that your child enjoyed their first day. It might be alerting staff to your concerns. Secondary schools are huge places and it can take a long period for a teacher or form tutor to get to know your child. A simple and positive email can really work wonders in establishing a good rapport with your child’s school.
The most difficult part of starting secondary school for a child, is learning how to organise themselves. As previously mentioned, there are new buildings, new subjects, new teachers, new rules. It can all become quite overwhelming. As a mother, I used to find it helpful for my children, if I took time to discuss their new timetable and the new rooms. Some schools expect their students to move around the school buildings. Other schools might prefer to keep their students in one central location and bring the teachers to them. Whatever the situation is, then try to spend time looking at the timetable, discussing new teachers and new subjects. Having this open dialogue with your child can also alert you to any concerns your child may have. Your child may have a locker where they are expected to keep all their academic materials. Others may be given a desk in a form room. However, whatever the situation is, your child will be expected to be more prepared and learn to turn up for each lesson with the correct books and equipment. Take time in the first few weeks to talk about this with them. Ensure that your child always has a pencil case complete with pens, pencils, colours, geometric instruments, a calculator and a glue stick and scissors. The last two are incredibly important in Senior schools. Ensure all items are named – even with the latest name stickers.
Mobile phones become far more important in the transition to secondary schools, as children will often need the phone as a security in their journeys to and from school. However, schools are incredibly strict on the rules regarding mobile phones, with good reason. Ensure that you and your child are fully aware of these. Detentions can be given for using phones in lessons.
The lunch routine will be incredibly different to primary schools. Students are expected to organise their own lunchtime meals. Most schools now do this through a pre-pay system. You pay into an account and then your child uses their thumb-print to pay for a dinner at school. If your child brings in a packed lunch then again, there will be regulations for where they are permitted to eat their packed lunches.
I am certain that we have all seen the headlines for students who have been sent home from school for wearing the incorrect uniform. Uniform rules are frequently put in place as they are viewed as being effective in establishing discipline in a school. If students take pride in their uniform, then it reflects their pride in their school. Evidently in a school of over a thousand pupils who all wear the same uniform, then it is vital that items are named. These days there are many easy ways to name your child’s uniform item. However, I cannot underline how important it is to do so. There are many occasions when your child might leave a jumper or a blazer in a room. It is so much easier if the item is named and then can be returned to the rightful owner.
There may be occasion when you have cause to complain. This might be that you are concerned about your child’s progress in a subject or you might be concerned about an alleged incident of bullying. Again, the key here is always to open a dialogue with your child’s school. Look at the school’s website and read their complaints procedure. Some schools may have a specific grievance policy that requires you to follow a procedure. Others may ask you to email a named person. If you are concerned about the safety of a child, then each school will publish their child protection procedure on their website. Whatever the complaint may be, then do ensure you speak to the school as soon as possible. If you feel that the school has not responded to your complaint, then there will be a grievance procedure on their website. However, most complaints can be dealt with incredibly quickly, if you speak to a member of staff. Teachers really do care about your child and they would rather you speak to them as soon as possible rather than worry and keep your concerns to yourself.
The transition to Secondary school is incredibly important in your child’s life and their future. Accepting and learning how to adapt to change are part of growing up and becoming an adult. The more support you and your child’s school give to your child during this process, then the more they will accept that change is A necessary part of life. Yes, it can be incredibly scary and yes, the road can be slightly bumpy at times. However, Secondary school can be such an incredibly fulfilling and positive experience. It reminds me so much of an analogy that I once heard. It is very much like a dip in the sea. When children first put their feet in the water, then it can be cold and unwelcoming. However, once they are in the sea and swimming away, then they will never want to come out.
I wish you all the best for your child’s transition to Secondary.