Transitioning from Primary to Secondary School
The transition from primary school to secondary school has always been such a monumental milestone in a child’s – and a parent’s – life, as they begin to transition from childhood to adulthood whilst in the secondary school setting.
There are usually resources in place to make the transition a smoother and less daunting affair, but with lockdown restrictions extended, transition days/weeks and other on-site visits have been pulled, as have my daughter’s heartstrings and confidence. I figured it was not just our household affected by these changes, and wanted to share what worked – and didn’t work – when our eldest started secondary school.
GET SECONDARY SAVVY
Transition days have always varied in their delivery from school to school, but this year there are no transition days, so it is over to you. Previously, we could have met the tutors, visited the building, tried on the uniforms, chatted with other parents, and attended meetings galore, but this year it is time to play detective and source out as much information as possible.
Take time to email and speak to the secondary school and to find out key people in your child’s life. One of the biggest changes between primary school and secondary school is how we go from one class teacher for everything to a different teacher per subject. Do not be afraid to ask who is the Head of Year, Assistant Head of Year, form tutor, pastoral team names, SEN team, and other roles that are significant to your child’s needs.
For information rich emails, mark them as important in your email because, and you can trust me on this, if you think you receive a lot of emails now, wait until your child is in full flow, those key emails will get lost. There will be emails about PTA, canteen, non-uniform days, car parking, local incidents, homework, term dates, change in policies, behaviour, awareness days, and other words about the do and don’t of secondary school life.
Now before you book into the entire Friends theme tune, it is really more about friendships. Whether your child is Miss Popular or Mr Shy Guy, we need to talk about friendships. All children will be thinking differently about starting a new school with new faces and personalities. My Year 6 daughter is struggling with primary school friendships at present (so many female dogs if you get my gist) and so looking forward to a fresh start where she can meet new and more friendly types of peers. However, other children will be bereft and clinging onto legs and memories like a limpet, and become genuinely fearful about leaving their current social circle.
Start making the friendship transitions easier now by checking out and booking in for those out of school clubs away from their primary school. This could be in a Youth Club, Summer Holiday club or camp, or volunteering in the local community to give you a few ideas to start with.
Whilst they may not end up being with the people they meet in these clubs, they will be learning key life skills on how to communicate with new connections, which in turn will serve them well when those school doors fling open in September.
Speaking of September, if your child is still in the limpet mindset of clinging on, do start to have conversations around meeting and greeting lots of people in those initial weeks rather than hunting out a new BFF. When we pour our all into one friendship, it can lead to isolation in the long term if the friendship does not work out, that friend is off sick, or if subjects mean they are not together for the majority of the day.
THE MAGICAL MOBILE
At some point over the last few years, our cute button nose baby has turned into a hormonal bundle of shy but sassy tweenager. I know they say “life is short ” but seriously, where did the time go between nappies to weekend napping? Oh my goddess, you then have the realisation that one moment they were laying in their cot bashing a lullaby mobile above their head, and then they get a freaking mobile phone.
We chose to get our eldest a mobile phone for his birthday the year before he started secondary school so that he was confident and competent with it in case he needed to text us in an emergency, such as being chased by a massive brown bear or pack of feral school kids. However, unlike me and my aging brain, it turns out kids these days only need about a day to fathom out how to use a mobile phone, so over the summer, you may wish to invest in a mobile for your child.
Whilst our children get a mobile at the age of 10, it comes with a contract. Nope, not a contract from the mobile provider, but a contract with the Mother Bear here, as which child does not love having loads of rules placed around a joyous possession? The contract is all about how I trust them to have a mobile (shhh, I don’t really) but I needed to protect them from Nasty Nick and Bullying Barbara, so without warning, I can check their messages and usage so no secret squirrel password allowed. I want to be sure that they are not being a bully, and equally they are not being bullied. Also, there is no social media access, it is literally a phone with a camera. Oh, and no mobiles in bedrooms at night. Apart from that, apple of my eye, enjoy your mobile but not too much as they are magical.
My son learned how magical mobiles were in the early weeks of secondary school. Mobiles can magically disappear when not used within the rules. It was not by me though, it was the school. Now, the story goes a little like this…
Once upon a time, whilst seated angelically in the classroom, some troublesome child knocked over a bottle of water, which threatened the wellbeing of my son’s mobile. In a lifesaving act of bravery, my son whipped his mobile out from his pocket, thereby saving it from drowning in a freak water bottle accident. It was during this heroic act that the teacher saw the mobile out of its natural habitat and within the mobile phone free school environment, which led to the mobile magically disappearing for an entire week of its (newly saved) life.
So, whether you set up rules around mobile use as a family, or discuss appropriate use within school, I wish you well and hope you get your happiness ever after in the tale of magical mobiles.
WHAT A JOURNEY
One of the biggest changes to school life is just how your child gets to school, maybe some of you will be delivering them near to the school, but for many of us, we have to let them spread their wings and use their feet, and let them find their way there, whether it is by foot or public transport.
How I never got done for stalking I do not know, I am just grateful that I didn’t, as I used to get my son to walk to the new school over the summer holidays and I would follow on behind like a dodgy covert ninja. He felt confident to be out walking on his own, and I felt happy following behind him whilst taking scores on how he could improve his non-verbal communication skills, such as shoulders back, head high, and a confident stride, rather than looking like a petrified and cowering sloth en route to its demise.
Now, our more shy daughter, the current Year 6 child, was actually fairing better in terms of confidence in walking to school. This was one of the sacred positives in all things transition but no sooner had this new found confidence raised its head when her best friend from primary school was followed by a suspicious male on a morning walk into school which resulted in the school doing an impromptu Stranger Danger lecture. This put the fear of god in our daughter, and a hell load of tears flowing out.
Now, I once studied Criminology at night school so thought I would reassure and dazzle her with the fact that actually, most attacks and kidnappings happen by someone you know (almost 95% of the time in case you are wondering), and so the stranger danger was the least of her worries. According to my wide eyed husband, these were not the words my daughter needed to hear.
However, I do think it is worth aiding their confidence as much as possible with trial runs and a covert ninja in tow, or sending them on little errands like posting a letter in the letterbox at the end of the road, and other small distance tasks.
SLEEP WELL MY PRETTY
Whether they are anxious or excited, sleep patterns go all over the place during the summer holidays. The lighter nights and lack of routine only add to the already emotional time. I know it is easy to choose your battles and let them stay up later for a quiet life, but good sleep really helps with the emotions and transitioning back into school life. So, if you can, keep to a routine and I am going to try and wear mine out so they are longing for sleep!
For both our primary and secondary aged children I have booked a week of Summer holiday clubs for the week before schools reopen. This is not because I would have had enough of them by then, but because it will help ease us all back into that morning routine of getting up, having breakfast, getting dressed, grabbing a packed lunch, and using their brain between 9am and 3pm like they would on a school day. It also means we can reclaim those ‘early to bed, early to rise’ normalcy, and let’s face it, we need rest and recuperation as much as they do after the summer break (or summer breakdown), whichever you prefer.
Our little offsprings are about to spring off in new ways as independence takes on a seriously steep learning curve. I have always encouraged my children to be as independent as possible, mostly so that they can leave home sooner rather than later, thereby allowing Mother and Father to go on their travels before they are too frail to physically travel or too old that they cannot be guaranteed a high quality travel insurance.
Whilst you may have previously hated the summer holidays, this may just be the year you are most grateful for the six weeks, as this can be a non-hurried approach of empowering your child for the whole new level of independence that will be required come what September.
Aside from the practical measures of trial runs and magical mobiles, let us talk about our mental health; how are we feeling, and yes, that means our own health as a parent or carer, as well as the child themselves. Our younger daughter recently cried when big sister went away on a three day residential, so let us not underestimate this monumental new beginning and its impact on all the family members. Talk about it all, the big and the small details.
So, that is it from me, I have shared about getting secondary savvy with who is who, talked about friendships, the magical disappearing mobile, the school journey, the importance of sleep, and finding a whole new level of independence. I hope my experience and words help you and your not so little one on their transition from primary school to secondary school.