Changing school mid year
Moving house, lack of friends, poor teaching – these are some of the reasons why parents are forced into changing their child’s school and sometimes it has to be mid year. It is quite different from moving up to secondary when all Year 7 pupils are new together. It can seem very traumatic at the time, especially if your child is well settled in school, has left a good group of friends and you have just moved house. If your child is changing school following difficulties, such as parents splitting up or having been very unhappy at a previous school, it is worth having a word with the new teacher to make them aware of this.
You have to follow the same application process as you do when your child first starts school, contacting your local education authority in the first instance. Once your child’s name is on the waiting list you cannot predict when a place might become available and if you do not take it up within a couple of weeks, you risk losing it. The offer will not always be made during a natural break in the school year either – it could come through during a holiday or at the end of the academic year as it is often triggered by a family moving away.
The reason the schools are so keen to fill places that come up mid year is that they receive funding per pupil and they never know when they might be required to provide data. Having an empty place can make a big difference to the budget, given that the average spend for a secondary school pupil across England for 2009-2010 was £5,200 while for primary school pupil it stood at £4,284.
I remember starting my son at a new school at the start of Year 2 as a result of our house move. It was a big step to take but meant that we would be able to walk him to school again, rather than relying on the car or public transport. And with younger children tagging along, this was a major consideration. As I accompanied him into his new classroom and said good-bye, I don’t know who was more upset him or me.
The biggest issue for children when starting out at a new school is probably the friendship one. What will the other children be like? How will I find my way around, especially given I am the only newbie on the block. Schools are generally well versed in sorting these things out.
When my children moved school one summer term when they were aged four and seven years old, they were each assigned a buddy on the first day, to show them round. This was hugely reassuring and they enjoyed being fussed over as several children wanted to be their friends. Changing schools then had its plus points as they were able to join in with all the fun end of year activities.
Are the teachers really strict? This is another question that crops up frequently. When my daughter moved school half way through Year 8, she was pleasantly surprised to find that the school she started at was actually more laid back than her old one and detentions were not given quite as readily.
What the peer group or immediate classmates are like is a big factor and will have an impact on how quickly they settle in. At primary school how well they get on with their class teacher will be really important as they spend the majority of the school day with them.
If your child is does have to change school for whatever reason, it is worth encouraging them to view it positively – a chance to benefit from all their new school has to offer and to make some new friends, while still keeping in touch with their old ones.
Fiona Holmer works on the BBC Parents Blog.