I am sure we can all remember the feeling of the first day at Senior School; unfamiliar names and faces, the ‘room to grow’ uniform, bags of shiny new stationery, timetables, bells and the endless maze of corridors and classrooms. The move from Junior School to Senior School is a significant milestone in the life of a child and not one that we forget easily. It’s a time for change, opportunity and independence as well as a time for great excitement, anticipation and stomach gnawing nerves!
Whilst some children settle in the first couple of weeks of term, for others it will be longer process and in some cases, children may be up and down over a period of a term or more. It is important to remember that we are all different and we cope with change in different ways. Those timid nervous children who we may expect to struggle can sail through the transition, whilst their seemingly more confident counterparts can be more resistant to change.
Moving up isn’t always easy or straightforward for children, or their parents, but there are things you can do to help smooth the transition from Junior School to Senior School.
Broadly speaking transition is found to be smoother if a student becomes thoroughly involved in the school and if they are made to feel like they belong. Here are some helpful tips to help children and parents through the transition process.
Losing old friendships and the thought of forming new ones can be a daunting prospect for some children. It is very common for friendship groups to change frequently in the first couple of years of Senior School and, although this can cause some anxiety and sadness, it is quite normal and it is part of growing up. If you do have any concerns talking them through with your tutor, or Head of Year, can be very helpful.
Keeping friendship circles as wide as possible will enable students to make slower, more careful, judgements about long term friendships. The wide variety of extra-curricular clubs and the vertical house system at LEH provide ideal opportunities to meet people across every year group so getting involved is important. Eventually students fall into a group that is right for them, although it can feel like they are the only one struggling to find their place.
Longer term, it can help if your child is used to making new friends so encourage different clubs and activities in and out of school. Always be on hand to listen, advise and share your own friendship experiences, although avoid projecting your own school experience onto your child.
Try to attend all induction days and activities to make the most of each opportunity to get to know the other parents, children, and teachers. Getting lost on the first day is a fairly common concern and the more opportunities you can give your child to get to know key areas and people in school, the more confident they will become finding their way around. We run an orienteering activity, targeting key locations, which is great fun.
Often students arrive at their secondary school knowing only a handful of people. Induction days give you the ideal opportunity to make arrangements for the summer holidays. Try and keep in touch with other members of the class and any older ‘buddies’ the school may have organised. At LEH our Year 7 students form a ‘Buddy Family’ with girls in Year 10.
Once you have organised the uniform, school shoes and the stationery, aim to get your child more involved in planning their own school routines (activities, club or homework Schedules) in order to encourage more independence and ownership or what they are doing and when – this may take some practice! It is important to keep an eye on how your child is coping with new routines and responsibilities through talk about their day, asking questions (without sounding too interested of course!) and listening to news from school. Encourage good habits such as organising bags the night before school, using checklists and calendars to keep on top of schedules and tasks. Don’t be afraid to take a step back whilst continuing to keep a watchful eye.
With a wider variety of subjects and teachers comes a more complex homework load. Deadlines can vary and teachers differing preferences may initially be confusing. It may be helpful to keep a homework timetable on a noticeboard at home so that everyone knows what should have been set and when it is due in. We encourage parents to look at a child’s homework diary from time to time to ensure it is being used effectively. Most importantly if your child is having difficulty or is worried about homework, encourage them to talk to someone at school. The teachers are always less scary then they imagine.
One of the major changes for some children when moving from Junior School to Senior School is how they physically get there. For the first time in their lives, children may find themselves walking to school by themselves, cycling, travelling on public transport or school coach. For most children this will be a hugely exciting step on the ladder of independence and for others it may well be a scary one. Talk to your child and allow time to consider different travel options. It is important to involve your child in discussions about how they will be travelling to school and discuss any worries beforehand. Have practice runs before the start of term (at the beginning and end of the day), try to find other children who may live locally or travelling the same route, talk about safe travel, use of mobile phones and what to do in an emergency. Throughout the term check in on how their travel arrangements are going, has anything changed? Do they have any new worries they didn’t have before?
6) Mobile phones
A large number of students will receive their first mobile phone as they transition into secondary school, particularly when, as mentioned, they are starting to travel alone. However, it is important that as parents you set some ground rules before you hand over the phone so that expectations are clearly understood. Research the age limits for social media and don’t believe them when they claim to be the only one without a certain game or app. Ask the school for advice on social media sites if unsure and, where possible, attend digital parenting and online safety events in school. Make sure your child understands the school rules around mobile phones (LEH do not allow access during the school day) and remind them of their safety if they are travelling on public transport.
7) Keep in touch
Inevitably your day to day contact with the school will reduce, as students are expected to take more responsibility for themselves. However, make yourself aware of key contacts in your child’s school and, should you have any concerns, do not be afraid to talk or ask questions about how your child is settling in. Don’t leave it until June to report that your child has been struggling with a particular aspect of school life since September. A school will be better equipped to help the earlier you speak to them and the more information you are able to share. We are here to help!
Keep informed. The more parents know and understand about what is happening in school, whether that’s news and events or curriculum information, the better equipped they are to support and engage with their child about school life. School websites, school calendar, social media platforms, information evenings and weekly newsletters are fantastic resources and will keep busy parents one step ahead when it comes to remembering key dates and events.
This is a wonderful adventure that you are about to embark on with your child so try to be patient and focus on the positives, there will be many. When your child has had a tough day at school, it is very difficult for them to look beyond all the things that went wrong. Listen without interrupting when they want to offload and where possible try to ask about the things that went well. Finally, if you just need some reassurance speak to your child’s school. They are the experts and there is not much they will not have seen before!
By Mrs Mortimer (Head of LEH Junior School) and Mrs Sinnett (Head of LEH Middle School)