Surviving the Start of Secondary School

Joining secondary school is a major event and, with the autumn term beckoning, it’s possible that you will have mixed emotions about it. Whether you’re a prospective pupil or parent, seek out these savvy strategies to ease the challenges.

FOR THE PUPIL

“How was Moving Up Day?” Chances are you’ve been asked this question several times – the Year 6-7 transition day will either stick in your mind or be a hazy memory lost in at least six blissful weeks after ending primary. Take a breather and read our tips for positive thinking.

Everything Is So New

It’s a maelstrom – new teacher, new class, new homework load… but try to see it as an adventure, because that’s exactly what it is.

You’re Not Keen on Being in the Youngest Year Group

Don’t let that stop you. There are advantages to being the youngest. People will make allowances for any mistakes, and it’s now far easier for you to have your favourite subject extended into advanced areas. You should also be expected to read more widely – perfect for someone who is passionate about books! Turn your quick learning to your advantage – persist with the new changes, show attention and you’ll soon be ahead.

Initiate Chat

Making new friends can be tough if you don’t know someone and if you think they have nothing in common with you. A friendly smile is a good starter and, try to find ways to begin conversations which include the other person. For example, the latest films, where they went on summer holiday, and how they’re finding the new school environment.

Friend Worries

Your school may have a buddy system or peer mentors, usually from a higher year group. They are there to help you find your way around and settle in.

If someone who makes you feel uncomfortable is also moving on to your new school, chat with someone else – even if it’s just in the school corridor or by your locker – so that you’re not alone with them. It’ll give you more practice at making new friends too. Remember that anyone who is mean is very likely to be insecure.

Some people may talk about joining group chats. While joining might make you feel part of a group, consider the benefits of declining, postponing or suggesting an alternative; is a large group what you need? Large group chats can be very demanding of your time, as they can generate a feeling that you need to read every message and respond. One-to-one messaging or talking face-to-face is much easier.

Join A Cool Club

Taking part in extra-curricular school clubs will build friendships and strengthen you. You can mix with others from different years and not worry about being left out. Although you might not mingle outside the club, that’s ok, as you’ll have the kudos of knowing some of the older year groups.

Whatever you join, be true to yourself. Think about what you value and if you’re really interested in it. However, also don’t be afraid to try a club that is very different from your normal activities, you never know if it might spark something for you. You will know quickly if it is the right club for you.

Travelling to School

If school isn’t around the corner, make several trial runs of the journey. Is it possible to download a school map, or visit the outer grounds in person before term starts? Could you then try to walk or bus/car travel the journey in your mind? Or use Streetview. https://www.google.co.uk/maps/ Challenge yourself by describing the route out loud – use an unusual landmark to help you to remember where you are.

Boost Good Moods with Sleep

Find going to bed boring? If you have the kind of brain that won’t switch off quickly, turn off computers/phones/television at least an hour before you want to sleep, as “blue light” from devices inhibits the production of melatonin https://thesleepdoctor.com/2017/11/06/latest-blue-light-sleep/. Pick a simple book, relaxing music or a podcast you have already heard and let it make you sleepy focusing on what you already know. Make it a relaxing, regular routine and don’t drink anything with caffeine after 2pm.

Be Packed The Night Before So That You’re Ready To Go

It isn’t exciting packing a school bag but if you pack up your homework straight after doing it, you can relax in the knowledge that you’ll have a simpler time in the morning.

FOR THE PARENT

Help Them to Get their Bearings

A daughter or son who has difficulty with remembering locations could benefit from visualisation skills – for example, travel the route with them and then discuss the route: “the bus stop is on the corner of a road where an ice cream is painted onto a building…” Until they indicate that they are comfortable with the route, ask them to text or call when they arrive, and if the phone is in danger of being lost, write down emergency phone numbers for them to carry separately.

Phone Control

Work with your child to create phone use rules that allow some autonomy but still let you help them to stay safe; for example, requiring that you know the passcode to their device. If you have permitted a smartphone, enable a parental control system such as Apple’s Family Sharing. Despite the name, it permits child devices to be locked down, and the “Find My” app can be used to locate that missing phone (or child). Android devices can go further, monitoring communications.

Friendship Challenges

Many HLP children worry about the types of children they’ll meet, especially if primary school posed difficulties. This could include not just those who are of polar opposite character and interests, but also “frenemies”. If they’re moving on to secondary school with children whom they already know, be prepared to see some of those friendships change. For more able children, help them to accept that it will take time to meet a like-minded cohort but that it is more likely in the larger school environment than it was in primary school.

The Emotional Brain

Be prepared for changes of mood. Your son or daughter may be irritable if they have to get up earlier, argumentative about what to pack, or desperate to be like their peers with the right “on-trend” equipment. They may express their excitement but be finding school a stressful social environment.

Help them to establish a suitable bedtime routine, perhaps reading or listening to music or following some other suggestion from Potential Plus UK’s blog 50 Top Tips for Sleep Problems in Children . Work with, support and respect your child in developing their own choices, while offering firm boundaries where necessary.  Your support and calmness will help.

Equip the Teacher

Set up a first meeting where you can make a new form teacher aware of any traits or quirks that your child has and ask that this information be shared with relevant subject teachers.

Equip the Child

Have a relaxed chat about consequences. Tell them secondary school staff expect punctuality (lateness for a valid reason only) and remembering the correct equipment – just like in a job.

Good luck!


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