Transition to secondary school

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Parenting a child in the transition from primary school to secondary school can be a challenging time for families. I have seen two of my own children through this transition, I have also supported many many more during my time as a secondary school teacher. Parents and the child will both go through a range of emotions from excitement to fear.

From a parental point of view I had one child who found transition easy and one who found it all very difficult and needed coaching on how to settle in and make new friends. It took until the October half term to feel secure and until Christmas before he was really happy. From this I learnt that it is not a quick fix for some and that they will need more time and support to embed themselves in their new surroundings.

Here are my top tips to parents for a smooth transition:

• Secondary schools often have induction sessions for new students. Some offer holiday programmes especially for children who may not know anyone at their new school. Alternatively, they may offer sessions for children with additional needs including gifted and talented children. My son’s school offered rugby sessions for the boys to meet each other. I sent my son along even though rugby is not his sport of choice, we saw it as a way to start making friendships. Speak to the school and find out what they have in place.

• Consider how your child will travel to school and do a practice run if possible. If they are using the school bus do it on induction day too. For many, using the school bus is a hot spot for anxiety but remove the worry by doing it early on. If walking to school is the option, do it and time it. You don’t want your child being late to school! Consider if there is someone they can travel with the first week or so. This removes any worry about being on their own.

• Encourage your child to speak up to new friends. Making friends can be difficult especially if they are on their own. My son found this very difficult and I literally coached him into making new friends. He knew who he wanted to be friends with but they were a large group who all came from the same primary school. Dylan slowly but surely became part of the group but it took effort on his part. I kept reminding him, they didn’t need him as a friend they had each other. He needed to do the hard work. It took time but he got there and now has a core group of friends who he has lots of fun with.

• Train your child to write things down. Tell them not to rely on remembering homework or when they need to bring something specific in, it needs to be written down. It is information overload at the start of term and writing things down will help them stay organised. I have a copy of the children’s timetables on the fridge so that I know what they are likely to need also.

• Get involved and join clubs. Sport is a great way to make new friends and try new things. However, if sport is not their thing many offer computer, art and chess clubs.

• Create a calm workspace at home. A place where they can store books and textbooks is needed so that they don’t end up all over the house. Your child will also need a space to do their homework. It doesn’t need to be a desk – although that is helpful. Doing it at the dining table is fine, just make it a regular place.

• Have the resources you need at home. Parents can help by making sure you have the equipment needed include colouring pencils, calculator, basic stationery and paper. It is really useful to have internet access and a printer for research tasks and homework’s.

• Train your child to write things down. Tell them not to rely on remembering homework or when they need to bring something specific in, it needs to be written down. It is information overload at the start of term and writing things down will help them stay organised. I have a copy of the children’s timetables on the fridge so that I know what they are likely to need also.

• Finally patience and calmness is needed if transition is difficult. Parents need to be supportive at this time and really listen to what their child is telling them. I was really surprised when my son took longer to settle than his older sister had. Lots of support, hot chocolates and speaking to your child’s tutor could help. When I spoke to Dylan’s tutor he asked me who Dylan did want to become friends with and moved the sitting in the tutor group to enable that relationship to flourish.

Transition is life changing. Everything is different and whilst most will sail through the process with ease it is a time of change. As parents remember what starting a new job feels like, it is similar for our children changing school. Everything they know has been turned upside down and not all children are resilient but with support, encouragement and guidance most will be settled and happy in their new school by Christmas.

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