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Helping your child to transition to year 7 during the current pandemic

By Lauren Sandhu, on 15 June 2020

This series for parents and carers is written by Karen Roberts our Senior Access Officer for pupil engagement. Karen is a former teacher and has lots of experience working with young people. We will be posting on a regular basis so please check back for more tips and ideas as the summer term progresses.

Helping your child to transition to year 7 during the current pandemic

Leaving primary school is a major milestone for young children.  At the end of year 6, they need to prepare to leave a school where they know everyone and where they are the most senior year group, to join a new, unfamiliar environment, where they are the youngest surrounded by much older teenagers.  This can be an overwhelming time for both children and parents/carers.  And this year, there has been the added stress of the Covid-19 pandemic which has closed schools and affected the run-up to ‘big school’ for those joining year 7 in September.

Here, we provide some tips on how you can help your child to transition to secondary school during their last few weeks of primary school and over the summer.

Find ways to help your child say their goodbyes

Whether or not your child has returned to school recently, there are likely to be other children who have not returned and/or school staff who are still shielding or self-isolating.  Consider how your child can say goodbye to the people who are important to them who are not present in school.  Could they send a card to their teacher via the school?  Or send an email to the school’s account?  Or could they talk to absent friends on the phone or via Skype to say goodbye?  Perhaps other parents would be able to put you in touch with any of your child’s friends who you don’t have contact details for?  Saying goodbye can be a way to help your child come to terms with the fact that they are moving from one stage of their education to another.

Walk, cycle or drive the route to the secondary school and take advantage of any virtual school tours that are offered

Your child will have a new school journey to get used to after the summer holidays, so, if you are able to, prepare them for this ahead of time.  You may wish to travel with your child to the new school (avoiding public transport where possible and staying socially distanced from others) so your child can get a taste of what this experience will be like. You won’t be able to go in, but if you have access to the internet, lots of secondary schools are offering virtual tours of the buildings to help children visualise their new surroundings.  Some schools also have Q&As and opportunities to ‘meet the teachers’ online.

Start giving your child more responsibilities at home

At primary school, your child will have spent most of their day with one class teacher and they will be used to following a very fixed schedule.  However, at secondary school, they will move between different teachers and different groups of children each day, they may have a two-week timetable to follow instead of a weekly one and they will need to take responsibility for juggling homework deadlines across a range of subjects. This is a major shift and a big step up for them.  Just making sure they have the right equipment and books for each day can be a challenge.

In preparation, you could try giving your child more responsibility at home so that school becomes an extension of this, rather than a culture shock.  For example, make them responsible for certain chores in the home (such as making their bed, laying or clearing the table) or allow them to help you in the kitchen or on shopping trips. You may also wish to reinforce the rules for crossing the road unaccompanied. These small tasks will help to send the message that they are reaching an age when they will start to become more independent.

Share your own experiences of secondary school with your child

They may be dismissive of this at first, but it could still help to hear that, despite whatever challenges they may face in their new school environment, they will come through it successfully.  Talk about what you enjoyed at secondary school and what you think you got out of it, but don’t be afraid to speak to your child about what you were worried about before you went and how you dealt with this.  You could also ask their older siblings or other family members (such as older cousins) to have this conversation with your child.

Try to help your child see the move to secondary school as an opportunity

Focus on the good points of the change to a new school by talking to your child about all the things they will get to do at secondary school that they couldn’t do while they were in primary.  The list may include:

  • Making new friends
  • Travelling to school on their own
  • Studying new subjects
  • Trying out new clubs and activities
  • Generally becoming more independent.

It may take your child a few weeks to settle in, particularly if they don’t have any friends from primary school at the new school.  Let them know that this is perfectly normal. If there are issues beyond this, make sure you know who to contact at the school if you want to discuss anything.  You may wish to make an appointment to see their form tutor if your child is experiencing any social or educational problems. However, try not to worry too much.  The chances are that your child will enjoy year 7 once they get to know everyone.  Remember that all the children in their year will be going through the same transition.

Some useful resources for parents and carers:

Transition to Secondary: 5 tips for parents – Teacher Toolkit

Preparing Your Child for Year 7 Science – STEM Learning

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