Coping With the Transition To Secondary School
Any kind of change can and will affect each individual child to varying degrees. However, something as monumental as moving up from Primary School to Secondary School is likely to be extremely daunting to even the most outgoing child, so even if their outward stance is one of excitement it is likely that your offspring may be feeling a little intimidated at this stage.
Most Primary Schools will have spent a good deal of time, before the end of the summer term, helping your child to become ready for the transition, more than likely including a visit to the new school. Unfortunately, a further six (or more) weeks will have passed by before the big day arrives, leaving a long gap for growing anxieties.
A handy way to understand where a few of the worries may be focussed is to look at some of the things which make a Secondary School seem quite different. You can then work with your child on alleviating some of their concerns.
WHAT ARE THE KEY DIFFERENCES?
- The School is likely to be a much large building with larger grounds and many, many more children – your child may fear getting lost or being late to class.
- Classes may be larger and most subjects will be taught by specific teachers rather than just the one for all subjects – meeting new classmates and new teachers in every lesson is daunting, particularly learning the names and actually remembering them.
- New topics are likely to be taught– some of which may seem difficult to understand.
- Desks are usually not allocated spaces with lockers generally being utilised for both personal and school-based belongings – again a child may fear not finding their own locker and not having the correct items for the following class.
- Independent travel, by bus or train, is likely to be necessary.
- Homework will be issued in greater volume than at Primary School – children often worry that they will no longer have any free time outside of school.
- Children will be expected to be organised and capable of meeting their deadlines independently – timetables and a variety of books will be issued and required at various times.
- PE may involve more complex activities to be mastered – plus the need to remember to carry the correct kit and change into it at the appropriate times.
- Break and lunch times will probably have less supervision and will require interaction with new people without the safety net of the teacher.
STRATEGIES TO DEAL WITH THESE DIFFERENCES
- Print out a map of the school and mark up the different areas – use a colour code if necessary. Most School websites provide detailed maps with various areas marked clearly.
- You can’t go to school with your child and introduce them to every new person they meet but try to be reassuring that we have all been through the self-same concerns and explain how you dealt with them at the time, whilst always trying to remain positive. Devise a few ways to help your child to remember their teacher’s names – many school websites have a photo gallery of teachers to help.
- Make up a chart of the subjects that your child will be learning and write up an explanation for each so that they know in advance what each subject actually entails.
- The map of the school will help your child to find their locker. If they mark a big red cross the first time they are allocated then they will be able to find it easily afterwards. Encourage your child to keep the map in their school bag for the first weeks.
- If your child, and possibly yourself, have concerns about independent travel, why not walk or drive the route beforehand so they know where to embark and where they will then disembark.
- With regard to homework, it is always the best policy to be firm in the beginning. Yes, your child is going to be tired in the first few days but putting off each day’s work and ending up with a pile to do at the weekend is not an ideal way to progress. Encourage your child to stick to their homework timetable and make a point of checking that they are managing to complete set tasks every day.
- Help your child to be organised in the first few weeks so that they always have the right equipment each day. You can keep a copy of their school timetable to make your life easier and soon they will be reminding you that they have swimming on Thursday and maths Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
- You can find out which types of sports the new school offer and the correct season for each. Any necessary research can be done online to encourage your child to feel confident that they understand what the sport entails and a few rudimentary rules, etc.
- All of the new children in your child’s class will be nervous about break and lunchtime interactions. Explain this and encourage your child to be the kind and approachable member of the community. They will soon pick out the people they have things in common with and choose to seek them out first and foremost.
Overall the most important thing to teach your child is that everyone makes mistakes and feels vulnerable in a new environment. As long as they know that if they have worries and anxieties they can speak to you or approach a teacher privately, they will be fine. Almost all children are absolutely confident and have fitted in well by the end of the first half term break and eventually both you and they will be wondering what all the fuss was about!