What parents can do to help their child settle in

Manny Kelay, Principal of Thorns Collegiate Academy, offers tips for parents preparing children for secondary school

The last academic year was an interesting one for me as both my daughters were in secondary school, in year 9 and 11.

It feels as though it was only yesterday my wife, and I had to help prepare our daughters for secondary school. I remember supporting them with those first secondary school nerves, and how anxious and excited they were about joining a much larger year group. 

How can we therefore as parents prepare for secondary school? It can feel like an awfully large jump from being the eldest, most experienced pupil in the school, to being the youngest and newest. Having felt safe and happy in one environment for many years, now 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 will be nervous, even if they took part in induction days and have older siblings or friends moving up with them. While this is perfectly normal and something we need to accept, it is important as parents not to dwell on it or transmit our nerves to our children. A quick “yes, it will be scary, but let’s list some exciting things too” is a good way to change the tone of a potentially negative conversation.

Also, make sure any talk of your nerves with others takes place out of sight and hearing, as children are excellent eavesdroppers.

Be prepared

As an Academy Principal, I have often had complaints, when blazers, skirts or trousers in the right size or in a preferred style have sold out by the last weekend in August. My advice  would be to make sure you purchase your uniform in good time and to stock up on the other essentials throughout the summer. 

Secondary schools expect students to bring equipment to school every day and so a well-stocked pencil case is important. Schools should provide an equipment list so don’t let your child be the one without.

Also, having a disagreement about school shoes or haircuts is not the best way to start the new term so check what the school has asked for in their induction pack or on the school website.

My advice here is to play it very safe and if your child is trying to convince you that those lovely hundred pound black trainers are allowed as shoes, I’d be sceptical. 

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. This is about to change. Your child is likely to have several teachers as well as a form tutor and they will usually be unavailable for quick chats at the end of the day unless an appointment has been made. However, don’t panic as 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 to see how children have settled in.

Email is a particularly useful form of communication, and many schools use online platforms to help you keep track of your child’s progress. Many schools will also have helpful communication applications to help you stay up-to-date – so no more looking at 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 are likely to settle in. That does not mean it will be a smooth ride, but learning to adjust to new people and environments is an important part of any young person’s development and preparation for the world later on. 

However, should there be something you are unhappy with, ensure you contact the school straight away. Schools will occasionally make mistakes, but are always happy to help to rectify matters as soon as they can.

Keep smiling, stay positive, keep concerns to yourself while working in partnership with the school and your child should succeed and be happy. 

In no time at all your little one will be taking GCSEs and taking his or her next step.