The transition from primary school to secondary school for children can be one of their most exciting times but also can be quite daunting too. They may have heard tales of heads being flushed down toilets and older children taking their bus fare from them etc.
The best way to ensure your child has the best experience during this turbulent time to is to work together with both the primary and secondary school in organizing a thorough plan of action. The most successful transitions occur when the secondary school has a formal program in place; and communicates effectively with both parents and primary school.
Thorough planning, and you as a parent knowing what is going on will instill confidence in your child to transition this tumultuous time effortlessly with minimum anxiety.
What can you do to help your child?
Here is a list of suggestions to help that process. It is neither exhaustive nor a mandate; it is entirely recommendations based on my knowledge as a teacher for 14 years and a Head of Year of 7 years.
Take advantage of all parent meetings regarding transition.
From those meetings ensure you have the following:
- List of key dates, including holiday and assessment times.
- List of school rules including expected code of dress. This should consist not only of clothing but also wearing of jewellery, length and style of haircuts.
- Assessment and homework policy. You need to know when assessments are and how your child will be assessed; when they get homework, how often and how long they are expected to spend doing it.
- What methods of communication are available for you to contact the school, i.e. child’s planner; text; email or phone.
- A planner is your child’s school diary and this should be signed by yourself and your child’s tutor (form teacher) regularly.
- Your child uses it to record homework and when it is due.
- This is also a very useful communication tool as you can write a note in it to any teacher and ask your child to bring it back signed that the teacher has seen it.
- Who is the first point of contact for your child and yourself if you have a concern?
- Who the next point of contact is for a more serious event?
- How do they pay for their school lunch? What is allowed in their packed lunch?
If your child does not attend a primary school that is involved in a formal transition program, then ask the both primary and secondary if they can work together to organize several visits to the secondary before the end of the summer term. These should include from general orientation through taster sessions in classes with teachers.
- If your child is the only one going from their particular primary school ask the secondary if there is another child in the same position they could be paired up with.
- If your child has Special Educational Needs get in contact directly with the SENCO at the secondary school and ask for visits for both you and your child separate to the main school organized visits.
- Have a list of questions with you to ask the SENCO whilst on your visit.
- Inform the SENCO if you have any special requests for your child.
During the school summer holidays practice going to school
- Find out what is best way for your child to get to their new school.
- Practice the route with your child.
- Let your child do the route with a friend from the same school – be there at the school to meet them.
- Then let the children go to school and home again on their own – be at home ready to greet them.
First day at the new school
- Have a list of everything your child will need and write this down for your child to keep in their room:
- Pen, pencil, ruler, and calculator
- Specialist clothing, egg technology apron or PE Kit.
- Uniform – exactly what they need to wear.
- On the night before first day and EVERY night before school get your child to pack their bag, including homework (They can use their planner to check this). and get their uniform ready; this will just become a routine habit – saves a lot of stress on school mornings.
Worries about bullying
- Best way to avoid your child being bullied is to teach them how to deal with it and give them confidence that it will be dealt with.
- Keep in mind the definition of bullying is repeatedly doing something to someone which you know causes hurt or harm. (Children will often report a one off incident of name calling as bullying.)
- Tell your child if someone does something or says something they don’t like to reply in a strong voice “I don’t like it when…………………….and I want you to stop now” and then walk away. If the person doing the unpleasant action continues or follows them, then tell your child to inform them they are going to find an adult and do so. Under no circumstances tell your child to name call back or hit out as they will then end up in as much trouble as the persecutor. Role play with your child how they might do this.
- If it continues you may encourage the child to report it in school to a teacher or member of support staff they trust or you may report it yourself.
- Ask your child in a calm manner without judgement what happened; don’t be visibly angry or upset.
- Write down the facts: What happened? When it happened? Where it happened? Was there anyone else there?
- Always let them know you believe them.
- Ask your child if they want you to do something about it.
- Remember a teacher must do something about anything reported to them by a child – it is in their code of ethics.
- Contact the school and ask for an appointment with the Head of Year/House – never just turn up in anger.
- At the appointment give all the facts; don’t be judgmental of the other child or the school.
- Often in the first incidence the school will carry out a “no blame” meeting with the other child. At this meeting they will tell the other child how their actions have made your child feel. Often this is enough for it to stop.
- If it does continue, keep a diary and ask for another meeting. Usually at this point the other child will be warned strongly. Rarely does it continue after this.
- Keep going back until it stops.
- If it does not stop then ask for a meeting with the Head Teacher.
**During the summer break set aside a quiet, uninterrupted time to talk to your child. Go through your expectations, the school’s expectations and then listen to any questions or fears your child might have. Note any questions you still cannot answer yourself and contact the school to clarify them. School’s office is often open during the holidays and are a wealth of information.
Carol Milne BSc. Biomedical Science, PGCE
Kip McGrath Education Centre Gateshead East.