How to start preparing your child for secondary school

Starting secondary school can be both an exciting and nerve-wracking time for a child. They might be leaving a small, cheerfully decorated primary school to go to a large, intimidating secondary school with a maze of grey buildings.

The good news is that most children settle into their new school life happily. Here we share some ideas that may help you to make your child’s transition easier. However, it is important not to overdo preparation as this can be counterproductive. If you make too much of the move, you could give your child the idea that they have got something to worry about when they would otherwise have taken it in their stride.

Every child is different. As a parent you know best how to support your child, so please take our ideas as suggestions only.

Find out whether your child has concerns about starting secondary school

As you engage in everyday conversation with your child they may bring up things they are concerned about. If not, ask them how they are feeling about starting secondary school in a neutral manner. Reassure your child that they can come to you with any worries they have and that you are there to help them.

If your child has any questions you cannot answer talk to your child’s current teacher (or other parents) to find out the answers for them unless your child is happy to ask their teacher themselves.

Find an older child for reassurance

Do you know any older children who attend your child’s new secondary school? If so, they might be able to help by answering your child’s questions and sharing their experiences.

Choose a child who will offer your child reassurance and not the opposite. You could talk to the child first to find out about their experiences first. The child might also look out for your child and say hello to them when they see them around the school.  

Some schools already operate a buddy scheme whereby an older child looks after a younger child for the first few weeks. You could find out whether your child’s secondary school does this. If not, they might take on board your suggestion!

Attend induction days

Most secondary schools have at least one induction day where children tour the school and meet their teachers. If these days are scheduled in the school holidays do not be tempted to miss them.

As well as a chance to become familiar with the layout of the school and to get to know the teachers, transition days are an opportunity for your child to meet new children and start to build friendships.

Induction days are the best way to prepare your child for their first day at secondary school, so make the most of them.

Look at the school’s website together

Familiarity brings reassurance. The school’s website could be a great way to help your child become more comfortable with their new school.

Depending upon the website, your child might see photos of different classrooms and even lessons in action. The website might also answer some questions they have such as how to get a locker key or where to go to buy a prepaid swipe card for the canteen.

Practice the route to school

Is your child concerned about getting to school on their first day at secondary school? They might have to take the school bus, travel by car, or walk a strange route. Many children worry about being late, especially on their first day.

If this is a worry for your child, practise the route together so your child knows exactly what to do in advance.

Go shopping

Many children love shopping for new stationary and a brand new school uniform. A shopping trip helps put a positive and exciting spin on the experience of starting a new school. Your child may feel grown up and confident when they see themselves in their smart, new uniform. 

Shop for uniform and supplies in advance, with a list to hand. That way if anything doesn’t fit your child or you have forgotten something there is plenty of time to sort it out without stress.

Relax in the summer holiday

A few weeks before your child starts their new school, give them the time and space to gather their thoughts and to do the things they enjoy most. This might involve planning fun activities with your child, having friends around to play or just going out for walks and bike rides together.

Your child will be okay

Children are more resilient and adaptable than we think. If your child is not happy after the first few weeks of starting secondary school, don’t worry. It can take time to make new friends and adjust when starting a new school – reassure them about this and that they will be fine.

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