Today's blog comes from the lovely Hannah who specialises in dyslexia assessment, but is also a secondary school teacher. She has kindly offered to share her tips on the transition into high school for us parents. Thank you Hannah :-)
For more information about special educational needs in secondary school, especially dyslexia, visit her website:
“How was school today, darling?..... darling? .....darling?”
The change from primary to secondary school is enormous for both parents and children and whilst many children learn to thrive after a few weeks, the shock of a new learning environment can throw even the most confident of children. If your child has been quiet, tired and overly emotional since their start a few weeks ago, you are not alone.
I have been a secondary teacher for more than a decade and for the last few years I have overseen the transition process from primary to secondary. I’m also my school SENCO and so I have worked alongside many parents, particularly of more academically and socially vulnerable children, to support the family through the big change.
One of the main fears that parents often have is how their child will cope with the size of the school and about getting lost. I can honestly say that this is genuinely not something to worry about! In all the schools I have worked in, all children very quickly adapt and, like pack animals, they all help each other along the way. The vast majority of older children will delight in showing the new students around and helping them find a classroom. Most children are very proud of their school and like to take some ownership of it by helping others to find their way around. Soon, your child will be proud to show you around the buildings too! This fear is definitely one to let go of.
Another enormous worry is whether your child will make friends, especially if their time at primary wasn’t as happy as it could have been. The benefit of having about 200 children in a year group is that most children will find a kindred spirit in amongst them all. If your son is fascinated by Warhammer but all the boys in his Year 6 class were football mad, then the chances are that there will be another Warhammer fanatic in amongst the new cohort. Secondary schools offer a lot of clubs and spaces to go to. For example, the SEN department may run a lunchtime club where board games and quiet activities can be played or other departments may offer netball or choir practice. Joining a club is definitely a way of students finding their new social circle. If your child has a diagnosis of Autism or is socially anxious, then the SEN department are probably already well-aware of their needs and will be checking to see how they are settling in and encouraging them to go along to anything they are running during breaks and lunches. If you aren’t sure, contact the school SENCO and see what they have on offer.
With the move to secondary school, I think many parents miss the regular contact of a class teacher and knowing who they can talk to. The number of teachers now involved in your child’s education can certainly be overwhelming for parents as much as children. That hollow feeling of waving your child off at the school gates is made even worse by the fact that as children grow up they no longer want to be taken to school and many parents have to wave their child off from the front door, meaning that distance between parents and teachers seems even greater!
There is no easy solution to this one because the demands of the curriculum do mean that subject specialisms are increasingly important and therefore the number of teachers involved in your child’s education must increase. But each child should be in a tutor group and this teacher is usually your first port of call. If your child is feeling a little under the weather or a relative has passed away, or they have been selected for county rugby trials or they have a dentist appointment, drop your child’s learning tutor an email to let them know. If it is something that they feel her teachers should know, then they will pass this information on.
If it is a bigger problem that is ongoing, for example, if your child is struggling to do their homework (for genuine reasons!) or you are worried they may be being bullied, then you should contact their Head of Year. If your child has come home upset at something that happened in a lesson (for example, the way a teacher spoke to them), then contact that teacher directly. Like parents, teachers are all different, but most teachers really care about their students and will not have deliberately intended to upset your child. If you are troubled by your child’s description of events, try not to jump to conclusions, but call or email the school to ask to discuss it with the teacher. The new distance between home and school can often lead to conjured up pictures of the shouty old Science teacher you remember from school, but the reality is often very different. Contact the school rather than leaving things to fester.
This week the BBC published http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-37375278 an article about how children struggle for quite some time with the change from primary to secondary school. It isn’t uncommon for children to become more challenging towards the end of Year 7 and then emerge from the hormone fog towards the end of Year 9. You will likely find that they do turn into Kevin and Perry for a while and this is normal!
My best advice for you is to prepare yourself for a couple more challenging years ahead but ultimately to trust in your child’s school. They have your child’s best interests at heart and, whilst you may not always agree with how things are handled, they are experts in teenagers and will make the decisions that, in their experience, are right for the situation. Equally though, teachers are human and will make mistakes sometimes. If so, they will want to know and will want to be able to put it right. The best way forward is to keep in contact with your child’s Tutor, Head of Year or SENCO. The best parent/school relationships, as in life, are ones which have open channels of communication and show mutual respect.