Getting ready for secondary school

Lauren Watts
02 June, 2020 : 16:41
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Starting secondary school is a big change for any young person, let alone during a global pandemic! It can be a really exciting time, but you and your child may have some worries and concerns over the next coming months.

The main thing to remember is that you are not alone. University College London (UCL) conducted a survey asking two thousand young people what their thoughts and concerns were about starting secondary school. Students were asked on three separate occasions which were; end of Year 6, start of Year 7 and at the end of Year 7.

You will be pleased to know the research suggests that by the end of year 7, children are used to their new school and things will most definitely be ok! (I can also vouch for this).

The top 5 concerns to come out of this study from students were:

  1. Getting lost
  2. Losing old friends
  3. Homework
  4. Discipline and detentions
  5. Being bullied

The Stars report can be found here. It has some useful information, downloads and resources for both you and your child.

Here is some guidance about what typically happens on your child’s first day, and a few tips on how you can help them prepare:

What will happen on my child’s first day at secondary school?

Students will usually have an extended tutor time which will involve them meeting their tutor (the person who they will be registered with every morning or afternoon, every single day of the school year, it may be called something else at your child’s school for example a mentor).

They will usually have a tour around the school and be shown where assemblies are held, where they can get food and go to the toilet. In addition to this they will be told about the schools rules and routines in detail and who they can speak to if they are finding things difficult. Please be assured that most schools have amazing pastoral systems where students will have a number of people they can go and talk to and feel reassured. After this, most importantly they will receive their timetable which their tutor will carefully go through with them, explaining the school day.

The role of a tutor is a special one and one I relished - your son or daughter will be left in very capable hands. I recommend in the new school year, any concerns or issues are directed to the tutor to put you or your child’s mind at ease.

What can I do as a parent to help my child during the transition time?

Here are my top three tips for supporting your child during this unique and unusual transition to secondary school:

1. Reassure them

We are all in the same boat! Teachers, students and parents. We have all had to change our daily routines, adapt to new ways of learning and supporting one another during these difficult times. As teachers, we understand that there may be gaps in students’ knowledge and some barriers to learning. We do not expect you to have been super parent and home schooled your child religiously during the pandemic, as we know that is not realistic. What will happen for your child is that they will be welcomed into a new learning environment with open arms and full of positivity. We are all in this together.

2. Community

Whilst in these times of uncertainty it cannot be guaranteed that summer schools, transition days or visits will take place, do have a look for information on your chosen school’s website, there will most likely be a section called ‘Transition’.

Make a note of any events that are happening once the school year has started - this could be a summer BBQ, an additional Year 7 Parents’ Evening, or another type of event. It’s understandable that you are busy parents, but attending these events can help put you and your child’s mind at ease. It’s an opportunity for you to meet with teachers, form tutors and school leaders and get a real feel of what is on offer.

3. Communicate

Have open discussions with your child about any concerns they might be having. As mentioned above, the top 5 things that students are concerned about are: getting lost, losing old friends, homework, discipline and detentions, and being bullied.

All of these worries will be alleviated very soon once your child has started school. However, there are lots of policies available on the school website in regards to homework, behaviour and bullying. Read through them so you have an understanding of what guidelines are in place for your child, so if they raise any concerns with you, you can answer confidently.

Look for the positives and silver linings

Finally, a lovely task that you could sit down and do with your child is to encourage them to write a letter to their future self. Ask your child to write a letter to themselves as if they had made it to the end of year 7. Help them send themselves some words of inspiration or comfort, keep hold of it and get them to reflect upon it when they reach that milestone in July 2021. It’s amazing to see what advice they can give themselves and the positive impact of this.

In addition to this BBC bitesize has some wonderful resources for young people, to help them on their transition from primary to secondary school, with first-hand information from other young people who have experienced it!

For more blogs, tips and ideas visit our Parentkind Be School Ready page.

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Lauren Watts

Lauren has been teaching Art & Photography at secondary schools for over 5 years. She currently holds the post Head of Year 8, and was previously a Year 7 tutor. She has first-hand experience of supporting young people through their first days of secondary school. 

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