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How can you Support your Child with the Transition to Secondary School?

From Tania Virdie, Teaching and Learning at JK Educate.

Starting a new job as an adult can be incredibly exciting, affirmation of moving onto the next step of your career, further opportunities and challenges, but that annoying little voice in your head can also make you doubt yourself and fears of imposter syndrome can surface. Questions nag away at you such as: Will I like my colleagues? Am I good enough? Will people respect me? Do I have the required skills? Have I made the right decision? Am I ready for this?

As adults, we do have some control over these questions and benefit from greater maturity and previous life experience to guide us, however for primary aged students, about to start secondary school, they are having to cope with change at a rapid pace, with many inaugural experiences coming to fruition at the same time. This period can be hugely exciting with increased independence and some autonomy, yet navigating so much change simultaneously can cause anxiety, worry and doubt.

The summer holidays are a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the end of primary school, to recognise your child’s achievements, look back on memories and recognise the changes which have been made since starting school in Reception. It also gives a natural break and closure between two distinct points: finishing one school and starting another.

As parents, you can provide much needed support, both emotionally and practically. Listening to your child’s hopes and fears, giving affirmation and reassurance that worries are natural and part of the process, whilst acknowledging these are genuine feelings. Discussing the school website with your child can be helpful, watching virtual tours and starting to recognise key buildings and facilities, associating names and roles of staff, – the Head, Deputy, Head of Year 7, Form Tutor – putting a face to a name as well as finding out more about extra-curricular opportunities. What clubs would your child like to join? How can they become a school council rep? A member of the rock choir? Or represent the school in football? Reading school newsletters can also provide further information about school life and provide intrigue and curiosity.

The British Telecom advert of the 1990’s told us that ‘it’s good to talk’ and allowing students to share their hopes and fears is integral. I remember discussing so many scenarios with my parents within the ‘What if . . . ? ‘ question frame work. What do I do if the bus doesn’t come? What if I forget my PE kit? lunch money? homework? What do I do at lunchtime if I can’t see anyone I know on the playground? Who do I talk to if I have a problem at school? We discussed all of these different questions on several occasions, revisiting and refining the scenarios and my patient parents willingly went through them repeatedly. For a worried 11 year old, this solution based approach enabled me to feel empowered and to have inner strength, knowing I would know what to do, if any of these situations transpired.

Common worries often arise around the physical journey to school – catching a bus, coach, train or tube for the first time. Learning the route, looking at key landmarks and practising the actual journey with a parent over the summer holidays is incredibly helpful. Talking about a Plan B is also essential. If the bus doesn’t come, are there alternative buses? Can the tube journey be taken using a different route? There may be children that you know, taking the same journey and planning to ‘buddy’ up can give much needed dual confidence.

One of the key differences between primary and secondary school is the enormous step up in terms of expectations  with students expected to show strong organisation from the start. For many, this is a huge challenge and takes time to develop the skills needed to think ahead, to take responsibility and become independent. Parents can help prepare their child by practising packing their school bag or PE kit, practising wearing their school uniform and learning to tie their own tie.

If you already have a timetable, colour coding is a really helpful strategy, instantly enabling a student to see what is needed on each day and to visualise patterns clearly. This can also be done later on with homework, planning ahead and thinking about what subject  will be completed and when.

Most primary and prep schools implement a final term transition programme for students in Y6 covering key aspects of moving to secondary school, but over the summer holiday, as this change becomes more imminent and real, some of the worries can grow and become disproportionate.

JK Educate have created a new, bespoke transition workshop held during the summer holidays for this very reason. Moving Up! is an opportunity to bridge that gap and alleviate some of the anxiety that can grow over the summer break, by discussing hopes and fears that transition brings.

This interactive course will consist of a wide range of practical activities to encourage collaboration, communication and build confidence, exploring what to do in new and unfamiliar situations. Key topics such as introducing yourself in a positive way to new people and being able to speak confidently, both listening and asking / answering questions, making friends, acknowledging the differences between primary and secondary school – unfamiliar rules,  the need for greater independence, finding your way around the building, asking for help and being responsible for homework and equipment and tips for developing strong organisational skills will be covered.

This course will promote critical skills of problem solving, decision making and communication,  allowing students to explore transition and feel positively about their new educational adventure. There will also be an opportunity to hear from Senior school students in Y7 and Y8 about their experiences of starting secondary school and have an honest Question and Answer session with them, peer to peer.

Each session will include real scenarios and different situations that new students may find themselves in. Through discussion, theory, roleplay, games and a range of practical tasks, students will be able to demonstrate and put their knowledge into practice with a positive solution led approach.

The Moving Up workshop is full of practical advice to positively equip students with the skills and confidence to help them navigate their first few weeks at a brand new school.

The course will be held on Friday 26th July 2024 from 10am – 3pm at Dukes Education Head Office, 14-16 Waterloo Place, London. SW1Y 4AR. The cost is £200.

Please contact for further details and to book your child’s place.

This Transition course is led by Tania Virdie, Head of Schools at JK Educate and a former Deputy Head and Y6 teacher.

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