Starting High School
It is completely normal to have different feelings about this new experience.
Find out how your child feels about going to secondary school, this will help you understand and support them. Starting conversations when you are doing something you enjoy together, or when you are in the car can help it to feel more relaxed. You could ask;
- ‘How are you feeling about moving schools?'
- ‘What are you looking forward to?'
- 'Is there anything you are worried about?'
To let your child know you are really listening repeat the words they use to you, back to them. If your child says they are excited, you could say ‘You’re excited, tell me more about that?’ or ‘You feel nervous, tell me what makes you feel that way?’
If your child thinks they might miss their old friends help them plan how they can stay in touch.
You may notice changes in behaviour if something is on your child’s mind. These changes might be;
- not sleeping well
- challenging behaviours
- being withdrawn/quiet
- not eating the same as usual
Asking questions like ‘I can see you’re feeling angry a lot, do you want to tell me about it?’ Choose times when you are doing something together you both enjoy, this makes it easier to talk.
Reassure your child you love them, and you know they’re dealing with a whole new experience.
If your own experience at secondary school was difficult you may worry more about your child’s move. Sharing good and bad experiences shows your child you have had some of the same feelings as them. Tell them what helped you or what might have helped.
There will be times your child doesn’t want to talk about their day or moving to secondary school. That’s okay, let them know you will make time to talk when they are ready. Here are some more ideas for encouraging your child to talk.
Secondary school can be a big place, often schools will give a map of the school and classrooms. Reassure your child they can ask for help with finding their way around.
Schools will have a moving up day. This is time spent at their new school and a chance to meet teachers and other children. It is a chance to get to know the new school and find their way around. Children usually feel a bit more confident after this.
Work out how your child will be getting to school. You could practice getting the bus or walk to the school together a few times before they start.
Make sure your child has the right school uniform and equipment they need in time for starting school. You could shop for these together. Your child will enjoy choosing things like a school bag, note books or pencil case. They can practice packing their school bag and checking they have what they need. Help them make a list to put on their bedroom door to remind them.
Get your child more used to organising themselves when they are going out and about over the summer to practice and grow their confidence.
Let your child choose what they have in their packed lunch, talk about healthy choices. Shop together for this and also plan meals together.
Have a healthy sleep routine and make sure TV’s, phones and games consoles are turned off an hour before bedtime. Have a look at our tips for reducing screen time. You might be a bit more relaxed about bedtimes in the holidays. In the last week of the summer holidays try to get back to a good routines and bedtimes. It helps to stick to this at weekends too. This will help them have plenty of energy for the change to secondary school.
Many schools have buddy systems where other pupils look out for a new child. This helps year 7 children with making new friends, being included in activities and can offer support in the classroom.
Think about your child joining clubs where other children are moving up to the same school. It helps to see some familiar faces.
Once they have started high school your child might like to join some after school activities to help make friends with the same interests.
Active Norfolk has some low cost sport clubs. These are often held in secondary schools and there are also groups running during the school holidays. You can also have a look at some free activities you can do in Norfolk.
If your child has additional needs you may have different feelings about your child starting secondary school. Many of the basic needs of all 11 year olds will be the same, but they may need extra support in place.
If your child has additional needs talk to the SENCO, about extra planning and moving up days.
Speak to your child’s new school about their plans to help your child settle. Tell them what your child struggles with and what helps. You could ask:
- What extra help is there for your child?
- Is there a safe place they can go if they are worried?
- Can they have extra help with finding their way around?
- Will they have smaller groups they can work in?
- Who should you contact if you have worries?
Have a look at The Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities website, for their tips and resources *Click Here*
For Mencap's information about your child’s rights in education *Click Here*
To find more information and tips for helping your child move up to secondary school *Click Here*
- Talk about any family routines that will need to change – maybe your child will have to let themselves into the house for the first time?
- Have times over the holidays when you can put thinking about new school to one side – maybe a day at the park with a picnic, playing out with friends
- If problems do come up for your child in the early days let school know – they will want to make this a positive time for your child
- Give your child the chance to talk about their day when they are ready – most children don’t feel very chatty when they first get home
- Help your child workout a homework plan and find a quiet place for them to do it
- Tell your child that you are proud of them and how they are trying their best.
You may have good or bad memories about your own transfer to high school. Either way your child’s experience will be different. You can be reassured that schools today are much more tuned in to what helps children make the move positively.
- You could talk about your own experiences of moving school, maybe get out some old photographs. Your child will enjoy seeing you at the same age as them!
- Remember whatever happened for you, it might be different for your child. Let them know you will be there to hear all about it; the good and the bad.
Who Can Help?
Your child’s schools will be sensitive to the big change for year six pupils and are there to help – give them a call to talk about how they can help your child to feel more confident about the move. Schools will have a plan to support their pupils to make the move to a new school there will be;
- Detailed handovers between old and new schools about individual children
- Information packs about what your child needs
- Visits to the new school for your child
- Time to get used to where everything is before they start the new term
- Buddy systems
If supporting your child to get the things they need for high school – like uniform – is a big money worry for your family you can talk to your child’s school for advice or you can contact your local Council’s Early Help Teams. To find out more Click Here.
If you are worried that your child is struggling more than you would expect you can contact a member of the 0-19 Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.
If you are 11-19 you can text ChatHealth on 07480635060 for confidential advice from one of our team.