Starting secondary school is daunting for both child and parent. There are so many unknowns, what if’s and anxieties about moving up to ‘big school’, which is why Karen Ross, Head of Year 7 at Beaconsfield High School, has put together some fab tips to help make that move as smooth as possible.
Whether starting a new school or a new job, and regardless of how confident we are, we all need some emotional support ahead of the big day. Here’s what you can do to prep your child for the beginning of September:
Listen to their fears:
Give them the opportunity to talk, perhaps starting with a list of their fears or concerns, before gradually drilling down to what specifically is worrying them. Then you can formulate a plan to allay these fears.
Build confidence daily:
Praise your child as often as you can for effort, kindness, attention to detail, determination, recovering from a meltdown and showing respect. Make praise about something other than ‘being clever’ or getting good marks.
Big-up your allocated school!
Whichever school they will be joining, talk positively about it. Children take their cues from their parents, so even if it isn’t the school you were hoping for, don’t let your child know you feel this way. Positive vibes all the way!
Talk about friendship:
Encourage your child to make lots of friends and to get to know as many of their peer group as possible. Friendship groups will change throughout the year, so talk to them about what makes a good friend, highlighting that friendships develop over time and are not instant.
Let them work on a task before stepping in to help and relieve them of the responsibility. This will help to equip them with the tools they’ll need to deal with life in secondary school and indeed, life in general!
As well as the emotional prep, there’s also some practical prep which will help your 11-year-old deal with starting a new school.
Plan and practise the route to and from school. This may be the first time your child has travelled anywhere independently and although it’s tempting to offer to accompany them to school in those first weeks, most children will be less than keen. Talk contingencies in case something goes wrong en-route and consider buddying with a child who lives nearby and goes to the same school.
Get your term-time routine sorted:
In the last week of the summer holidays, get them up early in preparation for the start of term. This way, their body gets used to the earlier start time and they don’t feel exhausted after the first week. Agree a getting-up-time which leaves room for breakfast, bag packing and getting to school on time.
Get buy-in from them before the school year starts, agree when they will do their homework and hold them to it. Agree where they will do their homework and make sure you leave enough time for them to take part in after-school activities and for relaxation.
This may be the first time your child has a mobile phone, so make sure both you and they understand the school’s policies about their use during school-time. Know your child’s passwords, particularly their phone lock code, and consider regularly checking their phone and the apps they use. Agree that all devices should be left downstairs at bedtime to avoid overtiredness.
Make sure you know what equipment the school expects your child to have on the first day of term, buy it and label it effectively. No one wants to be the only one without a Spanish dictionary, glue stick, calculator or sports kit.
Encourage them to read age-appropriate books and newspapers. Most schools will send a recommended reading list to parents, so encourage your child to get some of the books out of the library or on their Kindle.
Make sure you keep the first two weekends of term free so they can decompress. They will be overloaded with information and new experiences and will need time to rest and recharge. You will also want to spend time with them, listening to their news and any worries they may have.
Join Karen Ross, Headteacher Rachel Smith and the rest of the staff at Beaconsfield High School’s Open Evening on 24thSeptember, 4.30 – 8pm and Open Morning on 22 October, 8.50 – 11.10am. For more information go to beaconsfieldhigh.bucks.sch.uk/Open-Events/ or email enquiries@ beaconsfieldhigh.bucks.sch.uk.