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 of you to consider at school and at home. Part 1 is available to read here.
- 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 where the year head outlines important strengths and weaknesses of each student. This usually only happens once a year (In September).
- Learning support at Secondary is different to Primary school. Contact the school if they have been receiving support and their new school aren’t aware of this.
- Flag any difficulties your child had in primary early so that it goes on their file where their class tutor and year head can access it. Ensure to 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 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.
- Most post-primary schools will have links with their feeder primary schools. This allows for an easier transfer of information. Usually, there is contact between the 6th class teacher/resource teacher and the receiving post-primary school which helps to overcome any disconnect between what was taught in primary and the starting point in certain subjects at second level.
- A planning meeting may be held for those students with complex needs. This should include you as the parent, the school principal, if possible the class teacher and as necessary other professionals who have been involved with your child in primary school.
- As appropriate, a support plan may 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.
- 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 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.
You may also wish to ask the following questions?
- Where can my child go if they are struggling/anxious/having a meltdown?
- What happens at break and lunch time i.e. unstructured time?
- How can my child get help with reading/spelling/maths/homework?
- How will support in assessments work?
- Watch out for any early signs of bullying by regularly checking in to your child. Personally, I would be tuned in early to see whats going on and whats being said. A lot of bullying goes on via the phone. Ask them to pass on issues if something comes through on the phone i.e. a comment, message or a social media post. In general, if you get them into good habits in 1st year, 2nd year will be way more straightforward (A major ACE tip here).
- Things will be a little unsettled for the first few weeks. 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.
- 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 quite right at school.
- More serious signs of issues are: Not wanting to do activities they enjoy, not wanting to 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 get the conversation going.
- Listen if they have a bad day..
At home you could…
- Photocopy their timetable. Have copies in their locker, on the fridge, in their journal and one for their pocket.
- Photocopy the bus ticket. Have a spare ticket in their school bag, at home and in their locker.
- Help them get organised with colour co-ordinated 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 then the room where English class is on would be blue also.
- Have a morning checklist on the fridge for: books, lunch, key, jacket etc.
In school they should consider…
- Having a safe person they can approach for help or advice, more than one if possible.
- Making sure they have a copy of a colour coordinated timetable, a spare key/combination 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. Don’t expect them to talk immediately after school. Give them some quiet processing time.
- Getting to know a buddy or designated person in a class that they can text to find out what homework they have.
- Checking: If using a laptop, most secondary school books now come now with a code where you can upload their book onto the laptop at home. This may sometimes allow them to leave books in school.
- Getting to know the school secretary.
- Putting a dob of bright nail varnish or small badge on their school jacket, allowing it to stand out in a crowd. Marks on all their property will reduce the chances of it going missing.
In next week’s Jotter entry, I will provide an insight into Preparing difficult subjects e.g. Maths. Don’t miss it. To view more of Joe’s Jotter features, click the hashtag #JoesJotter. Joe
More details about Joe’s ACE Tuition (Maths and English), ACE Career Coaching, and his ever popular ACE Maths Solution Books for the Junior and Leaving Certificate can be found via the links below. Be sure to pick up your copies today!
© Joe McCormack 2020