Preparing your children for secondary school

Moving up to big school

This September our family will be in an interesting position.

It will be my first day as Head of School at the new Q3 Academy Tipton, and it will also be my daughter’s first day at the same school.

She will be one of over 200 new Year 7 students we welcome; every single one of them will be both nervous and excited.

But how can we as parents prepare children for secondary school?

It can feel like an awfully large jump from being the eldest most experienced pupils in the school to being the youngest and newest.

Our children have been safe and happy in one environment for possibly seven or eight years – moving on to a much larger school, where they will not know many people, is more terrifying for us as protective parents than for the children themselves.

Nerves are natural

Every child, even if they have older siblings or lots of their friends are moving up with them, will be nervous.

It is positive for parents to accept this nervousness, not dismiss it, but also don’t dwell on it.

A quick, “Yes, it will be a bit scary but let’s list some exciting things too…” is a good way to change the tone of a potentially negative conversation.

In addition, children pick up on their own parents’ nerves – so try not to discuss any fears you have yourself when your children are around.

They may look like they’re playing a game on their phone but little ears love to waggle.

Be prepared

As a mum who has previously been horrified to discover that all school skirts have sold out by the last weekend in August, make sure you’re stocking up on the necessities throughout the summer.

Secondary schools do expect students to bring the essentials to school themselves every day and a well stocked pencil case is important.

Don’t be the one without.

Secondary schools tend to be far stricter on uniform than primary schools and having a disagreement about school shoes or haircuts is not the best way to start the new term.

Check what the school has asked for and my advice is to play it very safe.

If your child is trying to convince you that those lovely hundred pound black trainers really are allowed as shoes, I’d be sceptical. 

This also applies to fashionable haircuts, colours and facial piercings.

It’s going to be different

As a primary school parent, you are used to walking your child to school and collecting from the classroom door.

You see your child’s sole teacher every day and have the opportunity to speak to him/her as matters arise. 

It is a strong and positive relationship. 

This is about to change. 

Your child is likely to have several teachers as well as a form tutor. 

Teachers are not usually available for quick chats at the end of the day unless an appointment has been made.

Don’t panic – there are still plenty of ways to keep in contact and most schools will run a new students’ parents’ meeting early in the school year.

Email is a particularly useful means of communication (check the school’s website for links) and many schools use websites such as Insight, ClassCharts, Frog, FireFly or ShowMeMyHomework to help you keep track of your youngsters.

Indeed, many schools will have their own app to help you stay up to date – far easier than looking for crumpled up letters at the bottom of school bags.

Stay positive

The more positive you can be about your child’s new secondary school the better they will settle in.

That doesn’t mean it will be a smooth ride – we all take time to adjust to new people and environments.

However, should there be something you are unhappy with, ensure you contact the school straight away.

Schools will make mistakes but are always happy to rectify matters as soon as they can.

Keep smiling, stay positive, work in partnership and in no time at all your little one will be taking GCSEs and taking his or her next step.

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