Top tips for new Year 7’s starting secondary school
As the summer holidays draw to a close for another year, eleven year olds across the country are facing a key milestone as they prepare to start ‘big school’ as Year 7’s. With new opportunities, adventures and challenges waiting it is nerve wrecking yet exciting time.
These formative secondary years throw up plenty of uncertainties and challenges for children, from making friends and coping with a harder workloads, to catching the bus every day. Dealing with these shifts in a positive and forward-thinking manner is essential for children who are preparing to seize and conquer this next stage in their educational and personal development.
“I was worried about my close friends finding new friends”. Nathan, St Francis Xavier’s College, Woolton.
One of the most common concerns for children starting secondary school is losing their current friendship circle and making new friends. Part of the process of transition is navigating different relationships, and problems can arise when old friendships suffer as a result of new peers being introduced.
Most children eventually find that although the dynamic in their friendship groups change, the outcome is a positive one and they are able to widen their friendship circle whilst holding on to long standing relationships. Leaving old friends behind is a vital moment in a child’s personal development as they have to work hard to make their relationships work, often for the first time, making this transition a fundamental moment in their social development.
To overcome these worries, children will benefit from meeting up with old friends regularly, perhaps through joining the same local after school clubs. This will give an important sense of stability amid any stressful academic changes. Likewise, participating in extracurricular activities can be a fun way of building friendships in new schools and widening social circles.
Making an impression
“I thought the older pupils would send me the wrong way if I asked where a classroom was.” Joe, St Francis Xavier’s College, Woolton.
The relationship between different year groups has long been a cause of anxiety for younger pupils who feel pressure to live up to certain expectations. When entering a new environment it can be easy for children to feel that there will be new pressures upon them, from whether they are wearing the latest trends, their confidence levels and even how they communicate with friends.
It is important that children are encouraged to remember that as a pupil at a school you are part of a tight-knit community where older pupils are usually more than happy to share their knowledge and help Year 7s settle into their new environment. Although pupils are divided by year groups in the classroom there is always opportunity to build friendships in the wider school community, whether this be though group activities in the “yard” or joining whole school extracurricular activities, such as sport and drama groups.
“Every teacher has a unique approach and that can sometimes be difficult when changing from one lesson to another.” Nathan St Francis Xavier’s College, Woolton.
Discipline, in the form of the old fashioned detention, is often feared by children moving on from primary school, where rules are more relaxed. In many primary schools, teachers follow a traffic light system for behaviour, warning children and giving them a series of chances before giving out punishment. For children entering secondary school there can be a difficulty of understanding, and adapting to, different teaching methods. Every teacher has a unique approach and that can sometimes be difficult when changing from one lesson to another throughout the day.
Of course, many of these worries are quickly appeased once the child has started in their new school and becomes familiar with their new environment. Before starting at a new school it is always reassuring to take part in any inset days or summer club activities. This will give a feel for the school and is a great opportunity to meet some new faces too.
“I was put in set one for most subjects, but now I feel the added pressure of staying on top.” Mollie, Holly Lodge Girls’ College, West Derby.
Perhaps the biggest shift from primary to secondary education is an academic one, as pupils are working to a higher level and the workload increase. Whilst SATS levels give Year 6 leavers some indication of their ability, most are unaware of how they compare to their peers so this can be difficult to adapt to. Many secondary schools carry out tests in the first weeks of September, and place Year 7 pupils into sets depending on the results. Despite the initial pressure this may cause, many pupils will benefit from this streaming system into sets where everyone is equal and working on the same level.
The introduction of new subjects into a child’s timetable can also be one of the stresses in starting secondary school. What was once ‘science’ is split into biology, chemistry and physics – three very separate classes that take place in labs. Not only this, but having access to technical equipment and getting used to the language that accompanies it can make secondary school seem like a whole new world.
With new sets and subjects to contend with it is likely that children will discover favourite subjects and find out where their strengths lie. This can be pivotal in building confidence and self-esteem, so it’s important that you capitalise on these new discoveries where you can. Help your child explore their new found talents outside of school, whether it be to weekend trips to museums or galleries, or joining local sports clubs.
“I kept thinking I would get a detention for being late for a class because I didn’t know where I was going.” James, St Francis Xavier’s College, Woolton.
Starting secondary school requires a whole new level of responsibility for children, not just in terms of managing workload and getting to class on time, but also getting into school on a morning. Primary schools are often within walking distance of home whereas secondary schools can be miles away and therefore, travelling is a main concern for children and their parents.
Allowing your child to travel independently, and often on public transport, at eleven years old seems like a risk: What if he can’t find his way? What if she gets on the wrong bus? What if he doesn’t arrive on time? Staying in contact also came top of the list.
Parents can find comfort in knowing their child has a mobile phone with which they can contact them, particularly on the journey to and from school. Taking your child on a test journey to school one morning before term still will also help steady any first day nerves.
Dressing to impress
“I was stressing over which bag and type of shoes to wear. I thought I had to have expensive things and spent months trying to find the perfect ones.” Jayda, Holly Lodge Girls’ College, West Derby.
Despite wearing a uniform, a concern for many children over the summer is arriving with the perfect image and the right labels in September. From bags and shoes, to finding the perfect hairstyle, there is a lot to contend with for image conscious youngsters.
Of course, every parent wants their child to look the part, but a full school uniform can be expensive. Add to it other necessities such as stationery and a P.E kit and secondary school can become a financial strain for parents, particularly if they have several children in the school system.
Shopping around during the summer holidays to find items your child is comfortable with will give you plenty of time to find an affordable option. Getting kids involved in the process will give them a sense of responsibility as they make decisions for themselves and is also a good way to ease any apprehension or anxiety before school starts.