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Live Reporting

All times stated are UK

  1. Ella's first day: success and relief

    Ella Bailey as she left for school

    We've been following some 11-year-olds on their first day at 'big school' today.

    Earlier, we heard from Ella Bailey, who was apprehensive but excited about her first day at Backwell School in North Somerset.

    Here's a picture of her leaving for the bus this morning.

    And Ella has just sent us this message after school.

    Congratulations Ella!

    We hope you and all of the 'new school' gang have a restful evening and enjoy your schools.

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    Video caption: Ella has had a first day at secondary school
  2. The fight for a 'good school' place in Bristol

    Bristol skyline

    Bristol families are still facing unique pressures when it comes to finding a secondary school for their 11-year-olds, so for many arriving at schools perceived as 'good' today, it will mark an additional significant achievement.

    The city's local education authority figures show that 4,001 places offered in state schools this year were over-subscribed by 14.5% (581) applications.

    The Local Government Association previously warned that schools, nationally, would be thousands of places short over the next few years as a population bulge moved up from primary.

    Councils say the problem is becoming more difficult for them deal with as they no longer have any influence over many of the schools that may need to expand.

    But Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "No-one can really claim that it's a surprise.

    "The information was there, the planning should have been done."

  3. How should parents react if children are anxious after first school day?

    It's been the first day at a new school for hundreds of thousands of children today.

    Families will be anxious to learn, as they return, how the day has gone.

    Everyone is hoping for a happy, smiling child to return.

    But some may have a distressed child on their doorstep. So how do we deal with it?

    Learning to be the "small fish in the big pool" is part of the transition from primary school to secondary, says Prof Paul Howard-Jones, from the University of Bristol.

    He says research shows that children can pick up on their parents' anxiety:

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    Video caption: Children 'pick up on parents' anxieties'
    Quote Message: Communication with parents is key in transition and we try to ensure that parents have all the information they need about the school's practices. For example, the organisation around completion of homework is something that new students often need help with so we share homework timetables, tasks, deadlines and expectations so that parents can support their children. We hold a 'meet the tutor' evening early in the new term so that parents have the opportunity to discuss how their child is settling in. from Sue Geoghegan Transition Coordinator, The Corsham School, Wiltshire
    Sue GeogheganTransition Coordinator, The Corsham School, Wiltshire
  4. First day at secondary: a crucial day for schools too

    Huge amounts of effort are put in behind the scenes by schools on the first day of term for those starting 'big school'.

    We've been speaking to one Transition Coordinator, at The Corsham School in Wiltshire:

    "Starting secondary school is a big step in a child’s life so we do all that we can to ensure that the transition is as smooth as possible."

    "We run Taster Day visits for Year 5 and Year 6 students that allow students to experience a day in the life of the school. There are opportunities for students to visit with their parents at special open mornings and an annual open evening for prospective families. As Transition Co-ordinator I liaise with the primary school communities feeding into our school."

    "We recognise that some students may require more support than others and that may include more visits to the school to help build students’ confidence."

    "Our tutor teams work hard to ensure that the students have the support they need to settle in and older students, who have been through the transition experience themselves, work with Year 7's to encourage them to ask questions and find out more about the school from those who know best."

    empty classroom
    Quote Message: It is natural that year 7 students will feel nervous about the change from primary to secondary school and there may be some anxieties around the differences, such as making longer journeys to school that include travelling independently either by walking or getting the bus. Some students will consider changing lessons and classrooms more than five times a day the biggest change to their educational experience. Others come from a very small primary school setting where they would have known every student in their year group. But for many children who start secondary school, they quickly find that new opportunities outweigh the anxieties they may have about the change. from Sue Geoghegan Transition Co-ordinator, The Corsham School
    Sue GeogheganTransition Co-ordinator, The Corsham School
  5. More on the picture of secondary school places in the west region

    There is evidence that a squeeze on school places in the West's most urban areas continues.

    Some Bristol and Swindon schools are oversubscribed and the cities as a whole received more applications than places for new secondary pupils this year.

    • 4,000 places were offered in Bristol - but there were more than 580 extra applications from local residents - a 14.5% difference
    • Swindon's 2,584 secondary places were also over-subscribed by 84 applications
    • But Wiltshire's 5,947 places were under-subscribed by more than a thousand
    • Bath and North East Somerset figures show 2,456 state places were available for the September 2018 intake. They received more than 570 fewer applications than places this year
    • 7,410 places were available in Gloucestershire, where by contrast just 6,249 applications were received: the 1,150 less applications reflects a significant emphasis on private and selective education places in the county
    • South Gloucestershire caters for 3,025 11-year-olds this year
    • Somerset had 4,696 places for new secondary pupils
    • And in North Somerset there were just below 2,500 places available for year 7s
    School corridor
  6. Secondary school prompts first mobile phone

    Responsible mobile phone use is an important part of going to 'big school' today, say experts.

    The majority of parents buy their child their first mobile when they go to secondary, citing the need for communication as a high priority, research has found.

    But this modern rite of passage brings with it concerns about exposure to social media and negative online behaviour.

    Professor of Neuro-science and Education, at Bristol University, Paul Howard-Jones, is author of Evolution of the Learning Brain.

    He advises parents that preparation is key to healthy phone habits for young people:

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    Video caption: Prof Paul Howard-Jones advises parents how to manage a first mobile phone with their child
  7. Thousands of parents face social media worries as 'big school' starts

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    Video caption: Helen Bailey's 11-year-old daughter Ella goes to 'big school' for the first time today

    Like hundreds of thousands of parents, Helen is concerned that her daughter's first mobile phone - bought as she goes to secondary school for the first time - will herald new pressures.

    As well as being excited for her new adventures, it's the social media aspect of Ella's broadening horizons that is causing nervous anticipation.

    Follow our series of pieces marking the first day at 'bog school' here across the day.

  8. 'I'm worried I might be bullied'

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    Video caption: Watch: Phebe gets ready for her first day at secondary school

    Phebe Brown from Cheltenham gave us her thoughts ahead of her first day at "Big School" today.

    Like many 11-year-olds across the country, she is attending secondary school for the first time.

  9. A picture played out in thousands of homes today

    Ella will be one of the thousands of 11-year-olds passing through her new school gates today.

    The transition to a new school is said to be one of the most stressful times in a young person and their family's lives.

    We joined Ella and her mum Helen Bailey as they made final preparations for the big day:

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    Video caption: Going to secondary school is a huge transition for many thousands of families in the west today
  10. The statistics: a picture of the experience in the West

    school chairs

    Government statistics show how many individuals in the West will be donning a new secondary school uniform today.

    There were a total of 32,614 state-funded "big school" places in Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Bristol and Somerset this year. But only 29,859 applications were received.

    National secondary school pupil numbers are expected to continue rising until 2026, but the picture is very different across rural and more urban areas of our region.

    The squeeze on school places in our inner cities is contrasted by a picture of schools desperately trying to attract more pupils into places, as funding is allocated by numbers.

  11. First day at big school for thousands

    Young school children

    The majority of school pupils in the West return to the classroom today.

    For more than 30,000 across the region, today will be their first day at big school.

    The move into year seven, at age 11, is one of the biggest rites of passage in a child's life.

    Some of the challenges they will face remain the same as their parents experienced. But there are new challenges as well.

    We're marking this significant event in many of our audience's lives with a special focus on the experience and issues here across the day.