Preparing for the move

Thinking about starting secondary and post-primary school and the changes that lie ahead can cause a major wobble for some children. Mostly it’s fear of the unknown, and that’s where you come in.

Download our free guide 

Our Be Secondary School Ready guide has lots of tips and practical advice on what you can do before they start to help and reassure them.

There’s also lots that schools can do to manage to transition with events and activities to help your child feel connected to their new school community. 

Your child may have already attended an open day, in which case the transition process has already started. There is usually an induction day in June or July, which gives children another opportunity to look around the school and meet some of their teachers and future classmates.

Managing worries 

It’s inevitable that along with the excitement there will be some worries. The main ones tend to be about making new friends (and missing old ones), being bullied, getting lost, homework and knowing what to do if there’s a problem. Make time to talk to your child about school and listen out for any concerns they have. If they’re not keen to talk about it with you, but you suspect they might be bottling things up, maybe they’ll open up to another family member or family friend?

Whatever their concerns are, let them know there will be lots of others feeling exactly the same way, and that teachers don’t expect them to settle in overnight and will be keeping an eye out to make sure they’re ok. Most schools also have some kind of mentoring or buddy system in place, so it’s likely they’ll also have support from an older child who knows the ropes. 

Practical ways to help 

  • Let them know it’s ok if they get lost travelling around school in the first few days, it’s expected and they won’t get into trouble
  • Talk up the school, even if it wasn’t your first choice, and emphasise what a positive experience they are going to have
  • Rehearse the journey to and from school, so they know the route and how long it takes and can recognise landmarks
  • Let them try on their uniform in advance — but only if they want to. Don’t force the issue or make a big deal of it
  • Gradually increase their independence so they get used to making their own decisions and having more responsibility. Show you have confidence in them and their self-confidence will grow
  • Try to manage your schedule in advance so you can be there to see them off in the morning and when they get home for the first week or so

What if my child has specific needs? 

If your child has any health issues or specific needs, it is important to start talking to the school about this as early as possible. Provide staff with as much information as they need to build their understanding of your child and strong relationships from the off.

The Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities has produced an excellent guide for children with special educational needs to support the transition to secondary or post-primary school — Moving On: A guide for pupils with special educational needs moving on to secondary school.