Getting ready for secondary school

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At a glance

Guidance about moving on to secondary school after primary school, including how to choose the next school, how to prepare and cope in the early days.

How to choose a secondary school

You’ll probably already have some ideas about your local secondary schools, through talking to parents at your child’s primary school.

It’s important to include your child’s views about which secondary schools to apply to. Your child may be keen to continue school with current primary school friends and could be influenced by friends’ choices of secondary school.

Consider your child’s strengths and interests. Some secondary schools specialise in particular areas of the curriculum and this could help with your family’s decision.

Think about your child’s character and the character of the school in question: do the two ’match’, or are there aspects of the school that your child may find difficult? Talk to your child about what they would find challenging at a particular school, as well as what would appeal.

Find out about extra-curricular opportunities outside lessons as well as academic standards. Being involved in out-of-school clubs can make a huge difference to the enjoyment of secondary school as well as having benefits for learning. Look at the range of sports activities on offer too - these can differ widely from school to school.

Before the move

Moving from the top class of primary school, Year 6, to the bottom class of secondary, Year 7, is probably the biggest change your child will have ever known. Don’t underestimate the importance of this moment in your child’s life, even if most of their friends are going to the same school, and you have older children.

Because moving schools is such a change in their lives, your child will almost certainly be nervous. Take time to talk things through – or at least, let your child know that you realise they might be anxious and you’re willing to listen. Children often feel better about worries when they share them.

Common worries children have include

Bullying will I be bullied by older pupils?
The journey will I get to school on time? What if the bus is late?
Finding my way around my new school is so big, what if I get lost trying to find my classroom?
The work will I be able to keep up with all my homework?

Getting there

For many children, moving to secondary school means a longer and more complicated journey without a parent or carer accompanying them.

Make sure you talk about the new journey, and try rehearsals to make sure your child is confident. Talk about what they should do if things go wrong – what if the train is cancelled? What if the bus breaks down?

Try to find other children for your child to go with – friends from primary school are ideal. Be prepared to make the journey with them in the early days if this helps boost their confidence.

How to cope in the early days

Aim to keep your time as free as possible around the early days of secondary school – your child may be growing up, but this doesn’t mean you’re not needed. Could you get home from work early, or even work from home, so that you’re there to talk through how things are going when they return home?

The school is as keen as you are to make sure the early days go smoothly. If you have any worries ask if you can talk to your child’s form tutor or head of year. However small a problem seems, it’s worth approaching the school for support if you or your child have concerns.

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