How To Help Your Child Settle In At Secondary School

How To Help Your Child Settle In At Secondary School


It's understandable that parents have lots of big questions when children make the move from primary to 'big school'. Here's some advice on parents' most common concerns...

My son often forgets to give me letters from school with important dates and events. I won't be chatting to other parents at the school gate, so how can I keep up to date with whatever is happening?

Many schools use email contact or their websites to list events and information for parents. Make sure that you sign up for this and look at information online about holidays, inset dates, parents' nights and school trips.

It's worth having a special place at home for your son to leave letters - even if it's just the hall table or a corner of the kitchen - and to establish a routine, such as asking every Friday evening if there are any letters lurking at the bottom of his bag which he needs to hand over.

My daughter has always been shy and only has one close friend. I hope that when she starts her new school she will become more outgoing and make more friends. Is pushing her to join school clubs a good idea?

First, it's important to know if your daughter is unhappy with her lack of friends. She may not be. I'd suggest it is worth encouraging her to join clubs if she is interested in the activity - and acquiring new friends is an added bonus.

If she wants to join a club, but feels shy, then you can contact the teacher who takes the club and explain how your daughter feels; they'll try to make her feel welcome and help build her confidence - a phone call, or email, or a brief note to them might be all that's needed.

And remind your daughter that it takes everyone time to feel relaxed with new people - so encourage her to keep going for half a term before she gives it up if she is really not enjoying it.

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My son is going to our third choice of school; our appeal failed. He doesn't know anyone at his new school and I am worried about how he will settle in.

You are bound to feel disappointed and concerned. Try not to let him see this, because although this is not the school you wanted, he needs to feel enthusiastic about it.

Don't dismiss his worries - but try to focus on the positives.

Remind him that there will be lots of other children starting school who know very few other children, so he won't be the only one. If he shows any interest in after-school clubs, then encourage him to give them a try. It's likely that he has been flagged up by the school anyway, if he is not with anyone from his primary school, so his form tutor should keep an eye on how he is settling in; you can contact them after three to four weeks to ask how he is settling.

Encourage him to invite potential new friends home. Even though you are upset about the choice of school, showing him you have accepted the situation – maybe you could join the PTA or get involved in some volunteering –will make him feel more positive about it.

My daughter has mild special needs. Her new SENCO knows about these, but the first parents' night is not for several months. I'm worried that she is going to struggle so how can I stay informed about her progress until then?

Your daughter's primary school will have ensured that her new school knows about her needs. However, it is possible that communication in secondary schools is not as good as it could be and some of her teachers may not know, or even forget, about her needs. Build up a good relationship with the SENCO.

Although parents' night is some time away, you can ask to see the SENCO or any teacher at other times. You'll have to make an appointment. Keep an eye on your daughter's homework diary to check she is coping, and look at comments on her work. This will give you some feedback and show if her teachers are being encouraging and supportive.

How can I help my son adjust to the new routine of getting up an hour earlier to catch the school bus? He is always tired in the mornings anyway.

It's worth trying to gradually introduce an earlier start during the last few days of the school holidays, excluding the weekends of course. Tell your child why you are doing this. Most children tend to go to bed later during the summer holidays, and get up later too. So think about moving bedtimes an hour earlier as well for the final week of the holidays.

Also if he is eating breakfast an hour earlier, he will feel more hungry before lunch, so bigger breakfasts or a healthy snack for mid-morning might be a good idea.

Packing school bags the night before is a must, and checking off books and kit against his timetable is a good routine to establish.

My daughter hates doing her homework even though she only has a small amount each week. It's a battle to get her to sit down and do it. I worry how she is going to cope with the amount she will have at secondary school.

Homework is one of those difficult issues which almost all parents encounter.

It might be worth trying to understand why she hates homework. Is it too hard? Too easy? Not interesting? Is she tired at the end of a school day, or too committed to out of school events so that she has no time to relax? It might be worth making some changes to her routine.

Homework should come first - and anything else once she has done it. If you can establish a routine - such as half an hour before dinner and the rest after dinner - it will help.

If she doesn't have her own desk or place where she does her work, then try to organise this. If there isn't room in her bedroom then a quiet corner of the house. Some families with several children find it helps if they all do their homework at the same time, with television switched off. And a small reward at the end of the week if she does it well and without a fuss can be a real motivator.

Do you have any top tips to share for parents whose children are due to start secondary school?