It is a big adventure for children and parents too!

Matt Panter gives a parent’s view on the move to big school


There’s something comforting about primary school life, like being wrapped in a cosy blanket with a mug of hot chocolate. 

Even now, I reflect on my time at Sundridge Primary in Birmingham, in the late 70s and early 80s, with great affection.

Teachers were warm, friendly and  inspirational, lessons gave you the chance to develop your creative side and playground life, playing conkers and football, while pretending to be Luke Skywalker, was even greater fun. 

And, so, when my daughter Eleanor, now nine, took her first steps from nursery to school, I kept my emotions in check. I knew, if she was anything like me, she’d have the time of her life. That has been the case but now, as the years seem to pass by with increasing speed, and the time is nearing to start considering secondary school, I’m feeling very differently.

Nervous, anxious, worried, scared – I’m full of angst when thinking about her future. Making  the transition to secondary school feels like someone is ripping that comfort blanket from your grasp and taking a swig of your hot chocolate.

Eleanor is surrounded by a fantastic group of friends and caring teachers right now and I head off to work safe in the knowledge she’ll be fine. But ‘big school’ feels like a different proposition. Towering buildings, huge, long corridors, more (and bigger) children, timetables with multiple lessons and dreaded exams. 

It feels terrifying but does the transition have to be that way? 

Lisa Lockley, assistant headteacher at John Willmott School and a transition lead for the Arthur Terry Learning Partnership, says not. 

“If I am being honest, the worries of parents far outweigh the students,” Lisa said. “They can project their fears of the big wide world onto the children.

“It would be safer and easier for us to keep our children in their bubble. A primary school is a ready-made community and the children have been together all the way through, all of that time and they have one teacher a year.

“A primary school has become safe to them and us, as parents, so the move to secondary school is a big step.” 

A big, daunting step, certainly, but the key, Lisa says, when preparing your child is to make it a positive, exciting one. She says, as parents, we need to become cheerleaders rather than problem solvers. 

“It might feel scary, as a parent, because you are handing over your most precious thing to these people you don’t know,” she says. “And from a child’s point of view, they are leaving many of their friends behind and will not just have one teacher but several. 

“So, as parents, you need to enthuse your child. You have to encourage them to step out of  their comfort zone and belong to a new community. There are so many opportunities out there for our students when they come to ‘big school’. 

“Of course, they could dwell on negatives such as ‘I won’t be with my friends’. As parents we should say ‘just think of all the new friends you are going to make that you can tell your other friends about’.

“Your child might say ‘I’m not sure about these new lessons, Spanish, drama and all’ but you can say ‘Isn’t it exciting, your trying new things?’ 

“Life is going to change but it is going to do so in a precious way. They will be asked to do things they have not done before but what a great opportunity that is. 

Your child will be doing new subjects they might find they are super talented at. “I think we can under-estimate how resilient students are and you would be surprised at how they thrive and blossom. It’s a time for them to mature and experience. It’s the next stage now of their development when they develop their own initiative. There will be bumps along the way but it will be a new life adventure.”