Practical steps to smooth the Transition into Secondary School
There are loads of positive initiative’s both you and your child can take as they start Secondary school. In Part Two 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. Part One of these transitioning tips was published two weeks previous and is available now to read here.
The Importance of Learning Support
- Secondary Schools will have learning support for your child. If your child’s new school is missing any key Information around this, ensure they get it as soon as possible. Some schools will have a staff meeting (in September), where your child’s year head will outline important strengths and weaknesses of each student (confidentiality assumed).
- Learning support at Secondary is different to that at Primary school level. Contact the school if your child 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 changes 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 when Insightful Information about a child is shared.
You may also wish to ask the school management team some key questions at the start of your child’s first 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?
2. 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 first 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 an unwillingness to go to school. Teach your child to talk to you.
- Ask them: What subjects 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 weekly 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). Colour code each subject, 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 school map, the room where English class takes place can be shaded 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 the hard copy books in school. Most secondary school textbooks now come with a code where you can upload the book digitally onto their laptop. This is handy Information to know.
- 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 up good relationships with their home room class, class tutor and year head.
- Ask them to note their daily challenges in a little notebook. It is advisable not to expect them to talk immediately after school. Giving them some quiet processing time will allow you to get a gradual but subtle 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
‘Do your best. That’s all that is ever asked of you.’
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