Parentkind's Policy and Communications Director and mother of two, Michelle Doyle Wildman shares her experiences and top tips to help parents make a successful transition into secondary school life (as well as their children!)
It’s an exciting time for children in year 6 across the whole of the UK. While thoroughly enjoying being the ‘special ones’ and the associated productions, parties and keepsakes, they are keen for big school life to begin.
My nephew is one such Year 6 and while my sister has been impressed by the schools’ effort to prepare him for this transition, she laments "I’m not worried about him. It’s me who could do with some help."
My son is coming to the end of Year 7 and if I could share the three things that really helped me through they would be to:
See your child differently
Talk things through with other parents and
Build a bond with their new school.
See your child differently
We accompany our little darlings in and out of primary school while doubling as chauffeur, hairdresser, medic, beast of burden, coach, baker etc.! And although it seems that five minutes after leaving juniors our not so little darlings need to fend for themselves, many of our children want and are ready for more independence. And, as parents, we should go with it.
As my son and his friends strolled into their new schools, looking as if they owned the place without a backward glance, I realised that I needed to let go but would miss the cut and thrust of the playground jungle after all.
Talk with other parents
Your child going to secondary school need not mean the end of being involved in a school community. I would recommend you go to all the new parent events that the school organises. The effort that my Parents’ Association (PA) made to make these sessions as sociable as possible made a big difference. I did feel a bit intimidated walking into a large room of strangers but fuelled by a kindly PA greeting and glass of Pimms, I valued the opportunity to chat with the teachers and swap notes with other parents. Their phone numbers did come in handy when faced with homework confusion and lost property over the coming months.
The experienced parents I met prepared me for how challenging homework in Year 7 can be - so I made time to offer some calm support on planning and the inevitable ‘build a model of…’ type tasks. Their advice to stock up on toner for the printer was spot on too.
Build a bond with the school
Although different from primary school, being an engaged and involved parent at secondary school can be just as enriching and worthwhile.
Joining the parent body is clearly a way of meeting people, deepening your understanding of school life and helping change things for the better. Although your child would die of embarrassment if you walked through the school gates with them, kids do seem proud if mum’s team beats the teachers at the PA Quiz night or dad is manning the penalty shoot-out at the school fair.
But if this isn’t for you, there are other ways to keep in touch and get involved, especially online. So far I have taken part in online consultations on the admissions policy, plans for new facilities and the PE curriculum. These complement your presence at nerve jangling but vital parent-teacher consultations, rugby matches or concerts.
Now a more confident mum of a nearly Year 8 pupil, I’m looking forward to getting more stuck in in the years ahead.
Do share your reflections on parents making the transition to big school. Any top tips to share?
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