14/08/2014 16:53 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Starting Secondary School: Advice For Parents To Help Children Make The Move

starting secondary school

You've just relaxed into No School Run mode, when you suddenly realise it's time to shop for uniforms, trainers and name tapes. Yes, it's off to Big School for thousands of children.

School holidays can be a heady mix of excitement and anxiety for children who are about to start secondary school. Most children will have visited their new school during year 6, but may still feel unsure about what to expect.

Professor Julian Elliott, an educational psychologist at Durham University says, "For many children, secondary school represents a step towards autonomy and the whole process of growing up and leaving childhood behind. This can be overwhelming for some children."

It can be daunting for children to leave behind the security and familiarity of a small school, and have to cope with getting up earlier, catching a bus, remembering to pack which books, finding their way round the maze of corridors, and making new friends.

I can still clearly remember my first day, trussed up in my room-for-growth uniform, including Bridget Jones style big green knickers.

Elliott says that parents should, "Ask their child if they have any concerns about their new school." But adds, "Try not to convey negativity by voicing your own sometimes unnecessary concerns."

1. The new journey

Have a trial run if it's a new route and they are walking or cycling. If your child is travelling by bus talk about safety and what to do if the bus doesn't turn up. I have forgotten just how many times my children used to call me asking for a lift because the bus did not arrive. If you can't drop everything, think about alternatives or friends who can help out.

2. Get up earlier

Everyone loves lazy holidays and getting everyone up early on a school day is always a shock to the system. A few earlier nights and getting up earlier before the first day can make it easier.

3. Bag packing

Some school don't have lockers, so your child could be lugging books and kit to school every day. Get them into the habit of packing their bag the night before. Believe me, there is no worse way to start the day than hunting for that missing maths book two minutes before the bus leaves. Having their time table in the kitchen as well as their bedrooms is useful, so you can bark out " PE kit !" as they dash out the door.

4. Name everything

This might be your job or theirs - but label everything: clothes, equipment, books. Without a name it will rot in lost property and you'll spend a fortune replacing it.

5. Buy two of everything (if you can)

Nothing drives teachers insane quicker than pupils not having the right equipment. Constantly borrowing rulers, rubbers and pencils is a huge distraction. Whatever your child uses, be assured they will disappear in the Black Hole of Lost Equipment by half term; so buy double.

6. Mobile phones

Check the school rules: some schools allow, others don't. Many schools discourage them, as they don't want the hassle when they are lost or stolen. If your child cannot take their phone to school, talk to them about how they will contact you if they need to - such as when they miss the bus!

7. What's worrying you?

Ask if anything is worrying them about their new school. It could be something such as what to do if they get lost - find someone and ask; do not lurk in the toilets until the next lesson – or for girls, what will they do if their periods start. It's a good idea to pop some pads and a pair of knickers into a small make-up bag which they can keep in their bags.

Talk through possible scenarios, whether it's missing the bus, losing their lunch money, forgetting a book, feeling ill. Who should they tell and what should they do ?

8. Friendships

You do this already but make it clear that your child's new friends are welcome at home, or on trips out, and positively encourage it. If they are finding it hard to make new friends, then inviting established friends and a new friend together can make it easier for them.

9. Establish a routine

What's that? If your child was used to doing their homework somewhere before tea and bedtime, they may need more structure now they have more homework – two hours a night is not uncommon. One mum I spoke to described how all of her three children did homework at a set time every day, when the television was switched off. That's one way, but if this isn't your way, you might want a "homework before dinner" routine, or whatever works in your house.

10. You're great!


Psychologists say that five positive comments for every one negative comment is the right balance.


So you are allowed to nag about the lost books or the sloppy homework as long as you heap the praise on at the same time. Paying your child a compliment, even something as simple as they look great in their new uniform, on a regular basis does increase their self esteem. And kids with high self esteem are happy kids and happy kids tend to be successful.

Good luck!