Preparing for the move to secondary school

The move to secondary school is one of the biggest changes in a child’s life.  Below are practical tips aimed at smoothing the transition and making the experience a more positive one.

1.       Preparation

  • Visit the school beforehand – more than once if possible, to familiarise your child with the layout and the routes between various buildings.
  • To help children who may have difficulty settling into a new environment, some schools have special familiarisation days before the start of term.  Ask your chosen secondary school whether they offer such additional help.
  • Liaise with the Special Educational Needs co-ordinator (SENCo) to establish strategies that may be available.  There may be an established “buddy” system and more IT support.
  • Familiarise your child with the route to school. For many it is their first experience of travelling independently.  Your local bus service should be able to offer advice and a travel pack.
  • Practice money handling. The dinner routine is likely to be a cafeteria system and it’s very difficult coping with a tray of food and your money at the same time as we all know!
  • If you think your child may struggle with the concept of a timetable, familiarise them during Year 6 with the concept of a written weekly plan.  Plot out the days with predictable and routine events highlighted.
  • Ensure that clothes are manageable, tie-wearing may be a new and complex skill best not left to the first day of term.

2.       Early days – getting organised

  • Laminate your child’s timetable, with a copy for their bag, the bedroom wall and a spare for you.  A laminated timetable is easier to find in the bag – if necessary, it can be hole-punched and attached inside the bag with a coiled key ring.
  • Try to encourage the habit of getting ready the night before.
  • Make a shelf available in the bedroom for homework organisation.  Use of clearly labelled files (one for each subject) can help your child keep all necessary items together – worksheets, text books, exercise books. This should make them easier to find when needed.
  • Organisation of homework space may be helped by the use of a cutlery tray rather than a desk tidy, as all the equipment needed is clearly visible.
  • Getting into the habit of repetitive and consistent storage of other items could reduce stress for you and your child.  If your child is taking door keys or a mobile phone to school for the first time, encourage them to keep them in the same side pocket of the bag each time.  For some children the inside zip pocket of the blazer (if part of the school uniform) is most effective.  The loss of weight in the pocket gives the child immediate feedback if the item is missing.
  • A clear pencil case will allow a quick visual check that all items have been picked up.  If your child tends to lose their pencil case regularly, having an emergency kit ready will avoid anxiety.  A hole-punched pouch, which attaches inside a ring binder is a better option for many students.
  • Have a memory jogger at the front door for important items.  This may be more effective as a photo checklist rather than a list of words.

3.       Volume of work

This can be one of the most daunting aspects of secondary education for some children.

  • Ask your SENCo to assess your child’s writing speed during Year 6.  If your child’s recording speed is significantly below average for their age, it may be worth having a discussion with your SENCo to establish if they qualify for additional time in exams.
  • A thorough IT assessment is also likely to be of value as handwriting may not be the most effective method of recording for your child.  Provision of IT assessments and equipment is likely to vary.  For some children additional keyboard skills may be on offer, others may provide a voice-activated computer for homework or a laptop for everyday use.