Moving from primary school to secondary school can be exciting and daunting in equal measure. Ongoing coronavirus disruption also makes the transition in 2021 challenging with many induction days and teacher visits cancelled.
• What can you say to your child to help them prepare for secondary school?
• How can your help your tweenager stay calm?
• What do head teachers say to their children to help them have a successful start in Year 7?
We've decided that when it comes to something as important as starting secondary school, two heads are better than one. So we've asked two head teachers to share their expert advice. Mrs Jones is preparing to wave goodbye to her wonderful Year 6 class. Mr Gordon-Brown is excited to welcome new Year 7 pupils to his school in September.
Together, they have helped us create these tips for you to share with your child.
Stop worries building up
It’s no wonder a new start can make you feel anxious; even the uniform will feel new and unfamiliar. However, once you get into the rhythm of the new routine, the worries will disperse. Take each day at a time and remember you’re surrounded by people who are doing this all for the first time too. Sharing how you’re feeling with your friends and family is a great way to stop worries from building up.
Take it a day at a time (and go slowly)
It’s really important that you are realistic and give yourself time to settle in. Don’t be hard on yourself: you won’t get all of your questions answered on the first day or even the first week. Making friends, learning the names of teachers and the way around the school site is quite enough to be contending with, but practice makes perfect so just keep taking it a day at a time.
Work out what you will do outside the classroom
Find out what your new school offers in terms of activities before, after school or at lunchtime and try to get involved as much as possible. Joining clubs and doing extra activities is a great way for you to meet new friends outside of lessons or tutor groups and you may also find a new hobby or learn a new skill to be proud of.
Make a plan to prevent problems
Talk through what to do if arrangements change or you lose or forget something. Having a list of useful telephone numbers in your school bag (in case you lose your phone), some money and a plan in place will stop all those ‘what if?’ worries and help prevent any last-minute panics.
Claire Jones is headteacher of Christ Church Clifton CofE Primary School, a popular state-maintained feeder school that sees pupils go on to a number of state and private schools in Bristol. Learn about life at the school or about how the staff help prepare their leavers.
It’s natural to be nervous
I often find myself with a slight case of butterflies as we start every school year and I’m a headmaster! It’s an exciting time, but with new people to meet, and new ways to do things its natural to have some nerves. You can rest assured the staff at your school will do everything they can to help you get settled in fast. Often schools will also have assigned sixth form prefects to the lower school who are great role models and who will help pupils to settle and find their feet.
Take every opportunity to get to know your new school
It’s been particularly hard in the last 18 months to get to know your new school as the usual range of open days and shuffle up days have been missing from the school calendar. However, many schools now have virtual tours and videos from staff to help you see what a “day in the life” might be like. You could also follow the school on social media as this is really great way to see what the school community does outside of lessons. Ask your new school for a map so you can become familiar with the layout and take this with you for the first few days. Trust me: you’ll know all the short cuts between classrooms and the dining room in no time.
Practise the skills you will need at secondary school
This could be as basic as practising packing a school bag or being in charge of remembering what things to take on a day out during the summer holidays. A practice of the school run with your mum or dad is always a good idea. Or make time to together to see where the school bus picks you up from so it’s not completely new on the first day.
Be positive and don’t forget the school is here is help
Moving to secondary school can feel like quite a daunting change and you may have been thinking about it for a very long time. Try to focus on the positive elements and all the reasons you picked the school in the first place.
Talk to your family about the subjects or activities that you are most looking forward to. With my own children, we talked a lot about getting involved in school life and being prepared to have a go. Also, don’t forget that no matter what school you are joining, there will be a team of people ready to support you as you take your next educational step. You will be given a tutor; someone you will meet with regularly. Your tutor is your first port of call throughout Year 7 and can answer any questions you may have.
Andrew Gordon-Brown is headmaster of Kingswood School, a leading day and boarding co-educational independent school that sees pupils from primary and prep schools all over the world join every year. You can watch Andrew's welcome video for new Year 7 pupils and take a virtual tour.