Your child will move schools at some stage in their life. Most commonly, this happens at the end of Year 6, when children move from primary to secondary school. Others may move from middle school to high school, or change schools because the family move to a different area. Whilst this guidance applies to the transition from primary to secondary school, much of it is relevant to, and will help you cope with, any school change.
Moving school can be a daunting or challenging time for both children and parents. Facing new people, places, lessons and structures, children often feel apprehensive. It can take a while to adjust to the new environment.
To help your child settle in, find the balance between supporting them and allowing them to increase their independence. Address any issues well before term time begins.
Many secondary schools work together with primary schools so children know what to expect.
Inevitably, children will wonder what to expect – and may even be fearful. Older children love to tell horror stories to scare youngsters! Encourage them to talk and listen to their concerns. Reassure them that feeling nervous is perfectly normal. Share your own stories of how all went well in the end.
Attend open days. Familiarise them with their surroundings. Show them how to use the school map/layout and become familiar with where the classrooms, toilets, cafeteria etc. are. Identify areas where they can stop and gather their thoughts if they do get lost.
Positive spin: this is a fresh start. They can forget the past and reinvent themselves.
Help to build their confidence about starting school.
Travelling to school may be a big change, too – from walking with you or friends to perhaps taking a bus to a new school.
Find out if any of their friends will be travelling the same route.
Speak to other parents to arrange a ‘test run’ for the children to travel together before term-time starts – by walking, lifts or public transport.
In addition to reassuring and encouraging your child, another key to a smooth and stress-free move to the ‘big school’ is helping your child to organise themselves and become more independent.
Your child may be moving up to ‘big school’ with friends, but encourage them to be open to making new friends.
There will be a significant increase in workload and expectations.
Make sure that your child has a quiet space in which to work, and they may need access to a PC/laptop and internet for researching work. 22.5 million UK households have WiFi, but libraries and school homework clubs can also provide homework facilities.
Help your child to develop organisational skills. Most secondary schools supply diaries/planners. Encourage them to record their homework tasks in theirs, with the due date. Then help them to schedule when to fit each homework task into their week.
Bullying is one of the main concerns children have when starting at a new school. A survey carried out by Bullying UK showed that 55% of children have been bullied at some point and 42% of children were worried about internet bullying. Children might even feel that a particular member of staff is picking on them.
Don’t dwell on bullying too much, but explain that it will not be tolerated by the school. Show them the CBBC website if they need support. Let them know that they can come to you or a trusted member of staff if they are upset, or feel vulnerable.
Ensure that your child feels supported, and understand what they will encounter from day to day. Remind them that you, their older siblings and others have successfully made it through.
You can only do so much to help. Your child needs to face new challenges themself to become independent. If you have helped them to feel confident, prepared and reassured, this is a sound base from which they can fly.