I think the realisation that our daughter will be moving from primary school actually hit me when we received the email confirming her place at senior school. Wow, I thought: this is actually happening. I felt a mixture of relief at finding out she’d be joining her friends at our first choice school, along with the realisation that she – we – would be leaving the comfort of her wonderful village school.
There’s no such thing as the perfect school, of course, and there has been the odd minor bump along the way, but there’s no doubt that it has provided an inclusive, warm and open environment, full of happy memories for our daughter. But how would we cope without the regular class assemblies, talent shows and concerts? I’d made some good friends along the way, had helped the younger years with guided reading sessions, and really enjoyed supporting the PTA at various events since my son had joined all those years ago. In short, it’s been a huge part of our family’s life and I’m going to miss it a lot.
Despite having already gone through one transition a couple of years ago, when our son moved up to senior school, I nevertheless have quite a few worries – and lots of questions. Every child is different, and this time my concerns are centred on how our daughter will cope in this new, potentially intimidating environment (we know all about the language on the school bus; the pushing and shoving along the narrow corridors; and the difficulty of securing your preferred lunchtime meal with older students queue jumping). Yes, it’s all character building, but it doesn’t make it any easier not to worry whether your child will cope with everything that’s thrown at them.
Missing out on leavers' events and transition days
The big difference this time, of course, is the fact that schools as we know it won’t open properly for the foreseeable future and she, along with many other children, faces the very real prospect of missing out on one of life’s rites of passage: the leavers’ assembly, the leavers’ party, the leavers’ final school trip… the list goes on. I worry that she won’t benefit from the transition days and knowing which form she’s going to be in. The build up and excitement has been put on hold indefinitely. How will she cope with being thrown in at the deep end after several months away from school? Her head teacher has said they’ll be throwing a leavers’ party regardless, but it won’t quite be the same as seeing all the children coming out of school for the final time, wearing their signed leavers’ shirts, and the hugs and tears as they say goodbye to the past seven years of primary school.
I feel lucky that I have the benefit of knowing how I can support and prepare our daughter for Year 7 and all that comes with it. I know how the systems work - and happily I have received information from her senior school about the school residential trip in October, which is intended to help new pupils settle and get to know one another. We’d already attended a welcome evening before the schools closed, but it’ll be comforting to hear how the school intends to ‘ease in’ its new Year 7 intake, assuming that we’re out of the current lockdown situation by September.
I know that the children who throw themselves wholeheartedly into what schools offer them generally settle the quickest. Since our daughter loves getting involved in school life – she’s a Year 6 House Captain and, until lockdown, was running numerous lunchtime clubs for KS1 children – I’m gently trying to encourage her to look into what’s on offer at senior school and decide what she’d like to get involved in. I’m hoping that, with the current detachment from school life, this will stir up some excitement, rather than anxiety, about what to expect in September. I’m also encouraging her to speak to her friends regularly, to keep the lines of communication open.
Don't underestimate how resilient children can be
It never ceases to amaze me just how resilient children can be. Take the current lockdown situation that’s been thrown at them. Yes, we’ve had a few ups and downs, but as a family we’ve established a new routine - and we’re bumping along quite happily, considering the circumstances.
Perhaps this period is, ironically, helping our daughter to prepare for that huge step up to senior school just as well as any ‘normal’ transition possibly could.
For tips and information to help you and your child prepare for secondary school visit our Be School Ready pages.