Children don’t like change, but change doesn’t have to be a scary thing. With the right kind of support, your child can look forward to starting their new school.
With the help of my father, who is a retired Year Six teacher, and my mother – currently a teaching assistant at St. Nicholas and St. Mary’s school in Shoreham-by-Sea – I got the low-down on tips to help guide your child through this process. Even though there are support schemes available within schools, there is plenty you can offer as a parent too, whether you’re going up, or going in for the first time…
Going up – suggest a ‘Drop In’ session
You might already be aware of these, but if not, drop-in sessions are becoming increasingly popular in middle schools, giving children an opportunity to talk through their worries with a member of staff. Around this time of year, drop-in leaders will discuss the transition into secondary school for pupils who need a gentle push in the right direction.
It’s handy to make your child aware that there are qualified staff on hand who will to listen to them when they need to be heard. My mother has been running her lunchtime ‘Drop In’ at St. Nicholas and St. Mary’s for six months.
Going up – transfer information
Equally important as talking to your child is helping them gain as much understanding of their new school as possible. A teacher from your child’s chosen secondary school will visit the middle school in advance to give them an idea of what to expect.
A prospectus provides a visual representation and usually a description of each subject. Go through it with your child, focusing on the subjects they like the look of. Many secondary school tadpoles are afraid to start new subjects with new teachers.
There is always something they will be worse at, but their timetable will include over eight subjects in rotation and they might discover something they never knew they were good at. They will receive a prospectus a year in advance, around autumn term time, and a timetable on the day they start.
Going up and first timers – visit the school
When you accompany your child to their primary or secondary school Open Day, it’s essential that you make the experience as engaging as possible. Remind your child of the two big positives they will soon discover; making new friends and gaining independence. Encourage them to talk to the teachers on site – no one knows the school system better than they do.
Going up and first timers – shop (but don’t drop)
We all take a moment to privately shiver at the ‘Back to School’ posters in supermarkets – but shopping for school supplies doesn’t have to be a chore. After all, your child will have new uniform this year and might like a little confidence boost.
I don’t know a single secondary school pupil who thinks their uniform is flattering. So make them feel special. Treat them to the new pencil case or rucksack they have their eye on. Shop in short bursts – don’t do it all at once. You don’t want to overwhelm your child – or wear yourself out!
Going up – say goodbye
Every child gets choked up when leaving middle school (even though they might not admit it). But it doesn’t have to be goodbye. Many middle schools welcome past pupils back for work experience; compulsory in Year 10 and in some cases earlier.
It’s important to make your child aware that they will have the opportunity to return if they want to, but also that they have plenty to look forward to. Similarly, young children may become distressed leaving nursery or playgroup.
Parents often question if their child will cope with sitting still in a lesson. But you may be surprised how quickly kids adapt to their new surroundings. Early learning lessons have been tailor-made to free up the imagination in a controlled environment.
It’s perfectly natural for your child to worry about starting a new school, but with these tips in mind, they will be well on their way to embracing this coming September with a positive mind-set.
For more ideas, try…
Family Lives www.familylives.org.uk
West Sussex www.westsussex.gov.uk/education-children-and-families/
East Sussex www.eastsussex.gov.uk/educationandlearning/