Joe’s Jotter: ACE Tips for Transitioning into 1st Year (Part 2)

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.

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 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?

  1. Where can my child go if they are struggling/anxious/having a meltdown?
  2. What happens at break and lunch time i.e. unstructured time?
  3. How can my child get help with reading/spelling/maths/homework?
  4. How will support in assessments work?


  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Listen if they have a bad day..

At home you could…

  1. Photocopy their timetable. Have copies in their locker, on the fridge,  in their journal and one for their pocket.
  2. Photocopy the bus ticket. Have a spare ticket in their school bag, at home and in their locker.
  3. 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.
  4. Have a morning checklist on the fridge for: books, lunch, key, jacket etc.

In school they should consider…

  1. Having a safe person they can approach for help or advice, more than one if possible.
  2. Making sure they have a copy of a colour coordinated timetable, a spare key/combination code and bus-ticket.
  3. Trying to build a good relationship with their class tutor and year head.
  4. 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.
  5. Getting to know a buddy or designated person in a class that they can text to find out what homework they have.
  6. 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.
  7. Getting to know the school secretary.
  8. 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!

#:   #JoesJotter


© Joe McCormack 2020

Joe’s Jotter: ACE Tips for Transitioning into First Year (Part 1)

Over the next two weeks, I will provide some Information and direction to help you as a parent to reduce the stress of this unique transition. I have broken the first part of this feature into two elements. One being the differences between Primary and Secondary school followed by my Top twenty tips for Transitioning into First Year. Part two of the feature will follow online next week.

The main difference between Primary and Secondary School


Subjects and settling in:

  • All first year students will take Irish, English, Maths, Science, History and Wellbeing (excluding exemptions).
  • Students may get a chance to sample subjects in first year before committing to them.
  • Various extra-curricular activities such as debating, drama, science club etc available.
  • It is a great idea for students to join clubs and make new friends. You might remind them of some of the skills of making friends; good eye-contact, smiling, showing interest in other children and reciprocal conversational skills. Making friends is a key element to settling into secondary school.
  • The more exercise they get the better. I did a little study of twenty footballers I coached previously, and they performed better on average academically compared to those in their year.
  • If your child enjoys a specific sport/club, it is a good idea to get to know the teacher who co-ordinates this.
  • It will be exciting for your child to start new subjects – woodwork, home economics and metalwork etc.
  • Students should give each subject an equal amount of homework time for the first month to give each one a chance.
  • I would advise students to complete the homework of their less favoured subjects first each evening.
  • Advise your child to enjoy their secondary school experiences. This takes any early pressure off them.
  • My ACE Tip: The better your child’s teachers know them, the better working relationship in class they will have with them.

School structure

  • The Subject Teacher – most teachers teach two subjects and may spend up to six classes with your child.
  • The Tutor/Form/Home Room Teacher – involved in Attendance, Day to Day and maybe discipline.
  • The Year Head – Home room teachers report to this person, but they may also deal with serious discipline or pastoral care issues.
  • Deputy Principal and Principal – Admin, Organisation, Events, Final decisions etc.
  • Students are usually divided into 4/5 groups of 25/30 (depending on the size of the school) with possible class names being: 1a, 1b., 1c, 1d, 1e. They stay with this base class for core subjects: Irish, English, Maths, Wellbeing etc. The majority of schools have mixed ability classes in first year. This helps with socialisation. “Mixed-ability grouping in first Year leads to improved progress in literacy and numeracy and can give students more confidence as learners’ (Moving Up -ESRI/NCCA 2004).
  • Students are usually mixed based on Information from their Education Passport from primary school and performance in entrance tests.
  • Streaming may occur in some subjects in second year. This is where students are grouped by their ability – Higher and Ordinary. e.g. Maths
  • The student council body suggests ideas and raises student related issues with management. Usually one student is nominated from each class or year. This is their vehicle for discussion and influencing change. The head girl/boy and deputy head person are usually elected by the student council.

School day to day:

  1. It’s important to have a big breakfast each morning e.g. Porridge with fruit or yoghurt. They will need something substantial to sustain them until little break when they can have a snack. Advise them on the sensibility of not eating their main lunch at 11am and being hungry for the afternoon then as a result.
  2. Roll call, locker access and lunch are at certain times. If your child is a bit scatty, make sure to advise and help them to be organised for these situations. Ask them to speak to their class tutor or mentor if any issues here (as applicable).
  3. Get them to copy out their timetable into their journal to get used to it. Colour coding subjects on this timetable can help track their progress for the week.
  4. In some schools, the students travel to the teacher’s rooms. In other schools, the teachers move around, and each class has a base room. Movement may be reduced from now on. Having the correct materials for each class every day will be Important.
  5. Moving around a new building can be disconcerting for a child. They can get lost and that’s upsetting for them. Tell them to tag on to one person from the class for the first few weeks.
  6. Many schools have gone to hour long classes to facilitate the new Junior Cycle.

My ACE Tip  – During the first two weeks settling in, they will be tired each evening. Maybe plan so that extra-curricular activities outside school are minimised during this period. After this fitting in period, plough on with these as normal.

Twenty ACE Tips for Transitioning into First Year


  1. Talk with your child, listen to their views and concerns and answer any questions they may have about the planned move. Talk to them about individual subjects. Help them plan their evening.
  2. Many students get anxious about assessments. You can explain that they are to help the school to learn more about the supports that students may need. Advise them to speak with the individual subject teacher if they are concerned in any way about a subject.
  3. Try and bring them inside the school before it starts. This is to familiarise students with the school at a time when there are fewer students in the building. They can learn about the layout of the school, get to know some of their new teachers and become familiar with the operation of the school including the frequency of bells, the location of lockers, the noise and movement when classes end and what happens at break times.
  4. Involve your child in buying schoolbooks, uniform, P.E. gear etc. Involve them in more decision making from now on. Empowerment works during their transitioning into first year.
  5. Talk to your son/daughter about the length of the school day, how a timetable works and how they are going to travel to school. Trial runs are good. Anticipate where they may get anxious during the day. Leave early for school each morning to minimise anxiety.
  6. Talk regularly over the next few weeks about the new school rules, P.E. arrangements, the canteen, lunch breaks, uniform and the timetable. Know the policies of the school and constantly check the school’s website for updates.
  7. Ensure as many of their class teachers know about their strengths and difficulties. i.e. The information on their Education passport
  8. Visit the school every so often to meet their subject teachers, tutor and year head.
  9. Get your hands on or draw up a map of school.
  10. Consider that it may take them a while to adapt to a new classroom, new activities and new subjects. Ensure they build in down time each evening to maintain freshness and enthusiasm.
  11. Organising Issues: Purchase materials for each subject. School booklists and stationary lists are the first port of call here. The website is useful for an insight into each subject and Introductory worksheets.
  12. If possible show them a few little skills around note-taking. Their class teachers may not get the opportunity to work on this vital skill.
  13. Talk about and help clarify the Locker process.
  14. Advise them to use their Mentor/Buddy and class tutor as best they can to order to ease transitioning into first year.
  15. Getting clever at knowing what equipment is required for each class is important: i.e. protractors, setsquares, colours, stencil sets, rulers, pens etc. My Tip– write down each teachers’ instructions here. There is no need to carry all their books all of the time. Put their Timetable and Calendar on the fridge.
  16. Encourage them to sign up to clubs/society’s on club’s day.
  17. Re-enforce the Important habit of recording Information, especially homework into their Journal. Check their Journal each week for homework progress and teacher notes.
  18. Get the 3-way communication going: Teachers-Parent-Student. In primary, it was more about the Teacher-Parent link. Start including your child in conversations as appropriate.
  19. Do as much preparation for the school day the night before. Get them into the habit of having the uniform out, bag correctly packed by the door, lunch ready etc. This again will reduce stress levels in the morning.
  20. At secondary schools the days are longer, so try and start them with a healthy breakfast or give them some dried fruit or yoghurt to eat in the car if in a hurry. Part 2 of transitioning into first year will be published next week. Don’t miss it. Joe

To view more of Joe’s Jotter features, click the hashtag #JoesJotter


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!

#:   #JoesJotter


© Joe McCormack 2020