How to prepare for secondary school life after lockdown
Moving on to secondary school is a huge step for every child. From being the biggest kids in the playground, they are suddenly the smallest in a new and intimidating environment. Uniforms change, routes change, routines change. Everything they know is changing.
For this year’s new Year 7 students, the step up to big school may feel even more overwhelming. Although some will have briefly returned to finish Year 6 in June and July, it’s likely that others won’t have been in a school since lockdown began in March.
Some will therefore not have the chance to say their farewells to the primary school friends, teachers and others with whom they have social bonds. They will also face a sudden return to education after an extended period of time at home, where they have developed new routines to cope with lockdown life.
Secondary school also offers new independence, the chance to meet new people and an exciting new world to explore. Schools will be working hard to make this unique transition easier for their new Year 7 children, while also trying to make sure things feel as normal as possible.
Parents have a crucial role in helping children prepare for the transition, to soften the shock and help them feel confident and secure in their new school. Here are 10 tips to help your child in their next step.
In the days leading up, discuss secondary school and what to expect. Your child might appreciate hearing about your own personal experiences – or may enjoy other conversation starters, such as BBC Bitesize’s range of short videos on secondary school life. Young Minds has also produced a range of videos on topics such as finding your feet and making friends.
Set up their tech
Technology plays a significant role for children in secondary school. By this age, many children may have got their first phone – and if yours hasn’t, it is worth considering if and when they might. If they do, make sure they have the numbers they need and ways to keep in touch with you. It is also important to discuss some important safety and settings basics such as device password protection. But you should also look into their new school’s policy on device usage, so you know what is acceptable on school grounds.
Get up to speed
Any lockdown home-schooling parent will know the trials and tantrums of getting a child to focus on school work instead of YouTube. But much like a footballer in pre-season training, it will help your child to get their mind warmed up to some core subjects weeks ahead of day one. There are many free Key Stage 3 learning resources available online, from BBC Bitesize to the Ark Foundation’s English and Maths Mastery workbooks, to help your child get up and running for the school work ahead.
Set-up a group chat
Socialising is a key part of any child’s school day. But many Year 6 students in lockdown had their friendship groups suddenly ripped away. Though they may have reconnected to an extent since lockdown measures eased, they may still feel a bit less confident about friendships. Knowing they will have friends from day one at secondary school will help them feel more secure. If you can contact other forthcoming Year 7 parents, find out which of their friends are also going to your child’s secondary school. You could even set up a messaging chat group, or regular video call on an app such as Zoom, for a peer network to prepare for the big, approaching life change.
Fill up your basket
Your child will need a lot of new items for school, with everything from stationery to uniform likely to be on the shopping list; chances are, they’ve also grown out of their school shoes since they last put them on! With most shops now open again, you can give yourself the best chance to be ready for day one, by making a list and getting any online orders in.
Secondary schools usually offer many classes, clubs and study groups that can help children develop new or existing passions, as well as meet like-minded people. There may not be as many as usual due to Covid restrictions – or they may be entirely cancelled – but you can usually find out what’s on offer by visiting the secondary school’s website. Everything from sport to science, dance to drama and coding to cooking may be available, so have a look together and make a plan for things your child may like to try.
Shape the new normal
Families have inevitably developed new routines to fit with lockdown life and then the summer holidays, whether late rising, later bedtimes, or much greater screentime. Start thinking about your new-term routines and how you and your child will need to return to some (new) normality back at school. Try to slowly adapt to these routines in the days and weeks leading up. It may not be easy – but it will be easier than trying to introduce a sudden change in their first week.
Practise the journey
Secondary school may be the first time your child makes their own way to school. Trying out the route in advance will help them tick off one of the new changes before it comes around. If possible, make the new journey with them. You can also use this time to talk about the move and how they are feeling.
COVID-19 has taught us to keep our distance – but when schools reopen there will be guidelines (and no doubt challenges) to help with safe social mixing. Make sure your child understands these guidelines and the reasons for them, and try to answer any of their questions about risks and rules. There will inevitably be initial nervousness about reintegrating into a social environment, but following the school’s guidelines sensibly will be the best way to help them feel safer. Parent Info has a guide to what the new rules are likely to involve, which will answer many of the questions you may have.
Be there for them
Even once your child has made it past day one, there will be many other ups and downs in the following weeks as they adapt to new social groups and new course work. Whether they come to you for help or hide away their anxieties, you need to be alert to their behaviour and try to spot any issues. Parent Info has many more articles that can help you handle specific situations, such as if your child is being bullied, coping with peer pressure or dealing with anxiety, plus specific tips to help primary and secondary school students cope with the return.