Transition to secondary school
The transition from primary to secondary school is exciting for children and marks a new phase in their lives. Children recognise it as part of growing up and are aware that their lives are about to change in an important way. Like any change, it can also bring uncertainty. Most children will manage the transition to secondary school successfully. However, there may be ups and downs. It’s easy for children to slip from feeling happy and confident one minute, to feeling nervous or anxious and back again as they find their feet. As a parent or carer there is much you can do to help your child through the transition period with careful and sensitive preparation
Children have to:
- Travel by themselves, wear uniforms and get used to an unfamiliar building
- Meet lots of different people, make new friends and find where they ‘fit in’
- Be independent and responsible for their learning, including giving in homework on time
- Go through some big changes in their brains and bodies as they become teenagers, which can make this even more tricky.
The pressure to ‘keep up’ academically and socially can feel overwhelming – but there are simple ways you can get ready together and develop skills for coping on an ongoing basis.
Preparing your child
Check in with them regularly and remind them that:
- It’s normal to feel both excited and scared – nerves actually help us prepare for challenges
- It may take time for them to feel settled, and that’s OK
- They might get things wrong as they get used to a new situation
- They’ve coped with big changes in the past and can do it again
- Not everything is going to change – some routines will stay the same
- They can talk to you or someone at school if they’re worried.
As a parent or carer, you will probably have walked your child to their primary school and come to know other parents. You might have had the chance to chat to your child’s teacher at pick up to discuss any concerns you or they have. Secondary school is different for parents and carers as well as children. School staff recognise this, and many include thorough inductions for families, introducing them to pastoral care and the systems and support the school provides. Taking advantage of this can be helpful in getting to know your way around secondary school
Young people may explore their identity by trying new things, taking risks, breaking rules and putting their friends first.
- Keep talking – young people like to hear that you are interested in their world and if you know what’s going on in their lives, you might worry less
- Check in while you’re doing everyday things, like cooking or driving somewhere, so that they don’t feel pressured
- Remember that your child still relies on you and (any) boundaries are needed to keep them safe
- Look after yourself. Self-care can be as simple as having a cup of tea, going for a walk or getting enough sleep. All of this helps you to be there for them.
The most valuable thing you can do to support your child is encourage them to explore their thoughts and to know that they can talk openly about their feelings, both positive and negative. Conversations can help pave the way to talking about your child’s emotions as they prepare for their new school. Make sure you mark the end of your child’s primary school experience. Saying proper goodbyes to friends, teachers and other school staff is important. Talk about any favourite memories from primary school and recognise all the things they will miss. Keep talking openly to your child to ask any questions they might have, and explore any worries and/or possible misunderstandings about starting a new school. Discuss with your child what they are looking forward to, and whether they are worried about anything. It can be helpful to think about how you felt when you were preparing for secondary school and share this with your child - children always like to hear stories about their parents’ or carers’ childhood. Were you excited about meeting new people and learning new subjects? How did you settle in? Your experiences may give you clues about how your child is feeling. Find out what your child’s primary school has been doing to support the transition with year 6’s. Continue the conversation at home with your child or encourage conversations with older siblings, older cousins or anyone the child feels comfortable with.
Empowering your child
Building your child’s independence and confidence will help them with the transition. Empower and support them to take steps towards independence however big or small, as well as taking on small responsibilities in the home to build up their confidence and independence in preparation for this new and exciting phase of their life. Give your child lots of praise where you can and notice the things that they are doing well. The greatest source of strength for any child going through change is knowing that they can fall back on the love and support of their parents and carers. Providing stability and security is what you do best, and this gives children the confidence to explore and test their new environment and seek out new experiences. It means that transition can be an exciting and positive experience and that if there are any wobbles on the way, they can come to you for reassurance and help. Remember, too, that you don’t have to have all the answers and that you don’t have to do this on your own. Your school is there to help and between you, school staff and your child you have all the skills and resources you need to help your child make a successful transition.
Moving up! the Transition to secondary School
This animation is aimed at supporting pupils who have recently started Year 7 or who will be preparing to transition to secondary school later in the year (Years 6 and 7). They were developed in collaboration with young people, teachers and mental health experts. The animation aims to support pupils to:
- Identify potential worries associated with starting secondary school
- Know they're not alone if they are feeling worried
- Talk to a trusted adult or friend if they have any concerns
- Identify solutions and strategies for looking after their mental health, including
*thank you to Anna Freud National Centre for children and families https://www.annafreud.org/movingup/