Moving on to secondary is an exciting but daunting time. Some of you will be the first in your family to leave primary school – others will have older brothers and sisters who’ve done it before. Some of you will take it in your stride; others might find the change more difficult.
In addition, this year is very different to any other year. You may have additional concerns about the process, and we know it’s hard for you to leave school without many of the usual traditions.
However you and your family are feeling, you are not alone! Below are some suggestions of things to think about, and talk about as a family, to help you prepare for the transitions to secondary school.
You may have some questions about the practical aspects of starting secondary school. It’s a really good idea to spend some time finding out what your secondary school will be like, before you start. Most secondary schools have excellent websites full of useful information – some have even put virtual tours and other special information online this year, as you cannot visit in person. You could also ask older students you know and trust who attend the same school to answer some of your questions. Here are some things you might like to research:
- School uniform – what will you have to wear, and where can you buy it? You could draw a picture of yourself in your new uniform with all your new kit.
- Equipment – what will you be expected to have with you for your different lessons? You could practise packing a bag with the equipment you will need, including a pencil case and other resources. What about the attitudes you’ll need? How can you make sure you turn up on Day 1 prepared to learn and make a good impression on others?
- Lunchtime – how does the canteen work? What food will be available? What does the menu look like? This is often something new Year 7s are very excited about!
- Timetable – what are the timings for the school day? Do you know how to read a timetable, as you’ll be expected to move from lesson to lesson at secondary school. Are there any new subjects which you’re looking forward to? You could practise reading an example timetable, and even packing a bag according to the different subjects you will have each day.
- Extra-curricular activities – what lunchtime and after school clubs are there? Try to find one or two things that you’d like to join – it’s a great way to make new friends and settle in!
- Route to school – do you know how to get safely to your new school? Have you practised the route so you don’t get lost? How long does it take you? Do you need any special equipment (eg a bike lock, lights, helmet?) Who will you travel with?
- Homework – do you know how much homework you might be given each day? Where will you do your homework? What equipment will you need at home?
Finding out about some of these things in advance often makes students feel more confident about what to expect.
It’s usual for the transition to secondary school to produce a whole range of emotions, both for you and your parents. You may be the first in your family to go to secondary school; or the last to leave primary school. It feels like an important milestone on the way to ‘growing up’.
Firstly, it’s important to acknowledge all the different emotions you may be experiencing. No emotion is ‘good’ or ‘bad’. They are all natural, normal and perfectly understandable. Taking some time to talk about how you are feeling can be helpful. And remember – you are not alone! I guarantee that however you are feeling, there are many other pupils, at Morley and across the country, feeling the same way.
There’s a lot to be excited about when starting a new school; but there may well be many things you will miss about primary school. It’s especially hard at the moment to think about ‘leaving school’ when some of you haven’t been into school for several weeks. Below are some suggestions of things that may be helpful to think about, to prepare emotionally for moving on to secondary school.
- Looking forward: Write a list of the things you’re excited about, and worried about, at secondary school. Can you find solutions to any of your worries? It’s okay to feel a mixture of things, but try to focus on all the new experiences and opportunities you’ll have
- Making new friends: this is often something that Year 6s worry about. Remember, everyone is in the same boat as you! Write a list, or draw a cartoon, of all the different ways you could introduce yourself to new people in Year 7. Think about the friends you have made at Morley – what do you like about them? How did you become friends? What kind of friends would you like to make at secondary school? What kind of friend are you to others?
- Worries: it is normal to feel worried when faced with something new. It can help to focus on the things you can control – making sure you know as much as you can about your new school, and are prepared to turn up on the first day well rested, with the right equipment, on time! Think about what activities help you to feel calm and relaxed, and make time for them over the summer and in your first few days at secondary school. This might be drawing, listening to music, going for a walk, yoga, or playing games. We call these regular activities which look after your mental health maintenance.
- Panic: sometimes worry spills over into panic! Practise in advance some techniques to help you calm down, like breathing, or doing brain games to distract yourself. (There are some great ideas here: https://www.annafreud.org/on-my-mind/self-care/ and here: https://www.childline.org.uk/toolbox/calm-zone/) Then, if you feel at all panicky, you will know what to do and will soon feel able to manage your new situation. We call these activities you can do in moments of stress repair.
- Leaving Morley: it’s important to acknowledge the end of your primary school days. Find ways to do this such as making a memory book and writing down your favourite moments, get in touch with friends and talk to them about their experiences, or write to your teachers and thank them for the part they’ve played in your education.
- Support network: it’s a good idea to think about who can help and support you with the transition to secondary school. Write one list of all the people you know who will be at your new school, who can help you with problems (both trusted adults and other pupils), and write another list of ‘out of school’ people who can offer their support. Think about some of the things you might need support with, and who are the best people from your lists to help you with these things.
Common worries and questions
Here are a few things that Year 6s are often worried about before they start secondary school. Remember – worry is a normal emotion when faced with something new!
- Getting lost: secondary schools often feel very big compared with primary schools, but you will soon find your way around. Remember, everyone in Year 7 will be in the same position. Try to stay with your classmates when you can, until you have learnt your way round, and if in doubt, ask a teacher or older student.
- Saying goodbye to old friends: some of you will have lots of familiar faces at your new school; others might be the only one going to their secondary school from Morley. In either case, you will soon settle in and meet new friends. Read the advice above about making new friends. It’s also important to think about who you’d like to keep in touch with from primary school, so you can plan for how to do this. These days, going to a different school doesn’t mean that you can’t keep in touch!
- Behaviour and detentions: year 6 pupils often worry about whether they will get in trouble at their new school. Most school websites will have information about their behaviour and detention policies, so you can read in advance about what will be expected of you, and what happens if you break the rules. Remember, teachers are there to help you get a good education, and want you to do well. Be polite, follow the rules, do your best in class and admit when you make a mistake. Your teachers will let you know when you are getting in right, and when you need to improve.
- Homework: you will generally be given homework at secondary school for each school subject. At first this might seem daunting. Make sure you have a good system (like a planner) to record your homework and plan when to get it done. Try to keep on top of the work, rather than leaving it all to the last minute. Most schools have excellent libraries where you can work at break times or after school, often with staff on hand to support you. If you are struggling, talk to your teachers as soon as possible – they’re there to help you.
- Being bullied: bullying can happen anywhere, and we all have a responsibility to help prevent it. If you are worried about bullying, whether it’s happening to you or someone you know, speak to a trusted adult at home or school. All schools should have an anti-bullying policy, and many schools also have an anti-bullying committee or other group for students to join. You have a right to feel safe at school – if you don’t, please ask for help. There’s also good information available from Kidscape, Childline, and the Anti-bullying Alliance
- Well-being: We all need extra support with our well-being sometimes. School, and becoming a teenager, can be stressful, and events such as bereavement can make it harder to cope. Most secondary schools have pastoral support for students who need it, either from pastoral leads, heads of year or heads of house, or student services. They should also be able to point you towards other services such as school nurses, counselling or specialist Mental Health services if needed. If you are struggling to cope, speak to an adult you trust and ask for help.
Things to look forward to
Here are a few of the things that Year 6s often say that are really excited about when starting secondary school. Can you think of anything else to add to this list?
- The school dinners: secondary schools generally have more choice of food, plus snacks you can buy at breaktime. Some have lunch cards you use to buy food, others use your fingertip! If you receive Free School Meals then money will be added to your account daily.
- Specialist equipment: such as Science labs, dance studios, music rooms, fitness suites, art rooms and more!
- New subjects: you may study subjects you’ve never tried before, such as dance, languages, technology such as woodworking, cooking and electronics, and separate physics, chemistry and biology lessons
- School trips: you may be able to sign up to school trips to visit other places, including other countries! Some of these will be related to school subjects, other may be related to clubs you can join
- School clubs: there are so many options for clubs you can choose to be part of, including sports, bands, art, languages, gaming, and more!
- Increased independence: many Year 6s are really excited about the idea of becoming more independent; taking more responsibility for your own learning, perhaps walking to school on your own for the first time, managing your own homework schedule, and (in a couple of years) becoming a teenager!
Advice for parents & carers
- Reassure: listen to your child’s concerns and don’t dismiss their worries, but don’t exaggerate them either! Avoid telling them about your own negative experiences. Help them to problem-solve, or put into context, the things they are worried about
- Celebrate: help them to look back positively on their primary school experience and all the things they have achieved. This includes how well they have survived lockdown, and remembering past times of transitions and change which they have successfully achieved
- Research: help your child to prepare for secondary school as much as possible. Visit their new school’s website, think about the questions/activities suggested above, and help them to prepare for their first day.