Practical steps to smooth the Transition into Secondary School
There are loads of steps and initiative’s both you and your child can take as they start Secondary school. In Part 2 of this feature, I will discuss three key areas for you to consider in order to ease this transition: One, the importance of learning support; two, your awareness of how the first few weeks are actually going for them; and three, practical tips for both you and your child to consider at school and at home.
The Importance of Learning Support
- Secondary Schools will have learning support for your child. If your child’s new school are missing any key Information around this, ensure they get it as soon as possible. Many schools will have a staff meeting (in September), where your child’s year head will outline important strengths and weaknesses of each student.
- Learning support at Secondary is different to that at Primary school level. Contact the school if they had been receiving any type of support at Primary that their new school may not be aware of.
- Flag any difficulties that your child had in primary school, so that it is entered onto their personal file. The class tutor and year heads will then have access to it from there. Ensure to always request the correct learning supports that your child is entitled to.
- If your child has complex special educational needs, they may need a transition plan to assist them to transfer to their new secondary school. You and your child will be involved in developing this plan. Other people may be involved, as necessary, including relevant teachers from their primary and post-primary school, NEPS psychologist, health professionals etc.
- As appropriate, a support plan may also include information on your child’s learning, social and communication, care, (for example: dressing, toileting, mobility, and medication), sensory (such as over sensitivity to noise, textures, lights) and physical needs that require environmental adaptations such as adaptations to the school building, adapted seating or other specialised equipment.
- Most post-primary schools will have links with their feeder primary schools. This allows for an easier transfer of information between them. Usually, there is contact between the 6th class primary/resource teacher and the receiving post-primary school. This will help to overcome any disconnect between what was taught in primary and the starting point in certain subjects at second level.
- For all parents, I would recommend writing a one page profile about your child noting the difficulties and barriers they faced at primary school. Include in it the strategies that worked and that didn’t work for them. This would be valuable Information for their tutor, year head and individual subject teachers should you like them to have it. I know that as a teacher, I am always pleased to get Insights like this, should parents be willing to present them. It gives us as teachers a deeper understanding into how each child interacts and learns, allowing us to support and get to know our students better. Outcomes are always better with Informative Insights like these.
You may also wish to ask the school some key questions at the start of the school year…
- Where can my child go if they are struggling, anxious or having a meltdown?
- What happens at break and lunch time? i.e. unstructured time
- How can my child get help with reading, spelling, Maths, or homework?
- How will support during class assessments work in each subject?
Awareness of how they are Settling In
- Watch out for any early signs of bullying by regularly checking in with your child. Tune in from day one to see whats going on and whats being said. A lot of bullying goes on via their phone; so ask them to pass on any issues or concerns they may have e.g. a hurtful comment, message, or mean social media post.
- With things being a little unsettled for the first few weeks, establishing a routine is really important. I would try to maintain the dinner, bed, study, training, and recreational routines at home as best you can. Kids that are going through change crave some kind of routine and they will look to you for that stability.
- After the Initial settling in period is over, keep an eye out for disturbed sleep, anxiety, and poor eating habits – it may be a sign of something not being quite right at school.
- Watch out for emerging red flags i.e. Not wanting to do activities they enjoy, spend time with friends or worse, an unwillingness to go to school. Teach your child to talk to you.
- Ask them what classes they like?, Who are they sitting beside? Who are you hanging around with? What clubs have they? Always try and get an honest conversation going.
- Try to listen to them if they have had a bad day.
- In general, if you get them into good habits in 1st year, 2nd year will be way more straightforward (A major ACE tip here) especially from a communication viewpoint.
Practical Tips for things to do……….together at home
- Make a few copies of their subject timetable.
- Photocopy the bus ticket, keeping a spare one in their locker and at home.
- Help them get organised with colour coordinated folders (available in most stationary shops). Give each subject a colour, so for example, English goes in the blue folder. Put a blue sticker on the English textbook/copies and colour ‘English’ blue on the timetable. If you have a map of the school, the room where English class is on would be blue also.
- Have a morning reminder checklist on the fridge for: PE gear, lunch, keys, jacket etc.
- Know the system. If they can view their books on a laptop, this may sometimes allow them to leave books in school. Most secondary school textbooks now come now with a code where you can upload them onto their laptop. Handy to know this Information.
- Making a distinctive mark on their belongings will give them a better chance of them not being lost or stolen, especially during the upheaval of the first few weeks.
Practical Tips for things they can do……….at school
- Having a safe person they can approach for help or advice, more than one if possible.
- Carefully minding their colour coordinated timetable, the spare key/code and bus-ticket.
- Trying to build a good relationship with their class tutor and year head.
- Having a notebook that they can write in during the day if they find something challenging. It is advisable not to expect them to talk immediately after school. Giving them some quiet processing time will allow you to get the chat going as the night progresses.
- Getting to know a friend in each class that they can text to find out what homework or revision they have for the next day. Classmates will vary depending on the subject.
- Getting to know the school secretary, should any issues or concerns arise.
To view part one of this feature article on ‘Transitioning into first year’. click here. Joe
More details about Joe as a Maths Tutor for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate (2022), ACE Maths Assessments, and his Award winning ACE Maths Solution Books can be found via the links below.