Moving from primary to secondary school is a milestone moment in the lives of 10 and 11 year old children. They step into a new world, face new challenges and meet new people – the experiences they have in secondary school will shape the rest of their lives. But ‘new’ can also be nerve-wracking, which is why schools work so hard on transition activities to help children on their way.
So how can children prepare for secondary school whilst primary schools are closed? Here we offer some tips that we hope will be useful to all families, whether or not you are part of our community at Trent College and The Elms.
Talk to your child, honestly and openly
If there is a silver lining of our time in lockdown, it’s spending more time with our immediate families. Whilst some of that time is spent juggling work, home-schooling, and access to technology, it’s worth planning a moment to sit and talk.
Help your child think about, reflect on, and (in time) accept the situation we are in. They might feel sad about what they are missing out on at primary school, scared about the pandemic, or anxious about maintaining friendships. Avoid downplaying their worries, let them share without comment, allow time for your child to find the right words.
Next, make time to celebrate your child’s primary years. Think back to all the amazing things that have happened:
- what do they remember?
- what are the stand out memories?
- who are their favourite teachers?
- which were the best trips?
- what hurdles did they overcome?
- what have they learned?
- which friends have they made?
You might also consider reflecting on some unexpected upsides of lockdown. And then find ways to record all this:
- memory books
- photo albums
- video diary
- write letters
Perhaps the biggest topic of conversation will be about what happens next. Ask your child to try and tell you exactly what they thinking e.g. “I won’t know who to sit next to in class”. From there you can discuss how they feel, and help them plan what actions to take to manage the situations they will face.
A crucial factor in how prepared they are to handle whatever happens at their new school will be their own self esteem. Build that sense of self by helping your child understand their own character strengths, and try to focus on these more than on their competencies.
Also, it is shown that regularly practising gratitude has a huge impact on our happiness, and it’s easier to handle difficulties if we have built up our bank of things we are grateful for. Do be sure though to focus on gratitude for self, others and experiences, not for possessions and things.
Talk to your primary teacher
Most teachers are still working during lockdown, and they are missing the children they normally see so regularly. To help you and your child over the coming months, ask your child’s teacher and Headteacher whether they have any plans in place:
- are they producing a year book?
- do they want children to contribute to an art project?
- are they planning for a possible event in the summer holidays?
The more you can find out, or even suggest, the better you can adjust the support you give your child.
Talk to your secondary school
The secondary school your child is joining next year will be working hard on planning for all sorts of different scenarios. Which year groups return to on-site teaching, when will they be back, can they socially distance if necessary?
Amongst those plans will be considerations of how they will reintroduce all pupils back into the routine of physical school, and in particular how they can provide all the necessary support to new pupils coming into Year 7. Every school will be slightly different, so make contact (email is probably best) and see what they say.
For families joining Year 7 at Trent this year, we have set up 1:1 Zoom calls to talk through all their questions and queries. This has allowed us to tailor and plan our transition activities for June, which includes a special virtual tour for Year 7, lesson introductions in key subjects, completion of a ‘digital passport’, online appointment booking for the uniform shop, and at the end of the month, a comprehensive remote transition day. Subject to Government guidelines, we will then run our Year 7 induction day before the start of term in September, making sure all the children are completely ready to join their new school.
Feel confident in asking your child’s secondary school what their plans are to support the transition process. They will want their new starters to feel confident and ready to join them in September.
Give some reassurance about the academic work
The academic provision made by primary schools to their pupils during lockdown differs hugely. First and foremost, reassure your child that teachers are very used to teaching new pupils who have a wide range of academic backgrounds. It’s quite normal for them to spend time getting everyone up to speed, and especially now, teachers recognise everyone will have had very different teaching experiences since 20 March.
If you don’t have work from school, make use of BBC Bitesize and similar online resources. It is worth looking at the KS3 work, to get a sense of what will be coming up in Year 7, especially in subjects your child may not have encountered before e.g. modern languages or design & technology.
Make it an adventure
Finally, turn a negative into a positive and make an adventure out of this voyage into the (relatively) unknown . Help your child set some small goals for their first few weeks at their new school (note: goals they set for themselves are much more likely to be achieved), such as:
- introducing themselves to one new person
- asking a question in class
- joining an after school club
And then plan out the time between now and the start of term, to include all the things they need for this journey:
- pieces of academic work
- sorting new equipment
- walking the new route
- buying uniform
- practising a confident greeting
There’s no doubt this will be a trickier year than normal for children moving to secondary school, but with your support and a little planning, they can emerge from a period of uncertainty and be ready to take on this exciting new chapter in their lives.
To find out more about life in Year 7 at Trent College, please contact our Admissions Manager, Helen Pearce-McNeill firstname.lastname@example.org
- Search online for work by Carol Dweck, professor of psychology at Stanford University.
- Search online for work by Robert Emmons, professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis.
- BBC Bitesize also has some great articles and videos on starting secondary school
- Check out “Go Big: The Secondary School Survival Guide” (20 Feb. 2020) by Matthew Burton