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First year at secondary school

Written by Christine Jenkins

By the time your child is in Year 6, you’re both pros when it comes to homework schedules, PE kits, friendships and knowing the building inside out. The move to a completely new school for Year 7, with new rules, a new layout, hundreds of unknown children (and seemingly almost as many teachers) can be a challenge. Christine Jenkins takes us through what is expected of both parents and children in their first year at secondary school.

Your relationship with the school
  • The parent/teacher/school relationship can feel different at secondary school. Your child will be taught by up to 10 different teachers, so you are unlikely get to know them as well as their primary teachers. Your child may find there are some whose style they prefer to others. Try not to be too concerned about this – it is quite common.
  • Your child will be taught by subject specialists who are passionate about their curriculum areas, so do not be surprised if your child develops an enthusiasm for new subjects.
  • Form tutors (and heads of year) have a pastoral role as well as being subject teachers, so these should be your first port of call with any general worries.
  • The school’s website should give details of how to contact members of staff. The best way is often via email. Subject teachers have full timetables, so may not get a chance to reply until the next day. Contact the school office if it is urgent.
  • Parents’ evenings are usually held once a year at secondary schools and consist of appointments to see a number of teachers, often with your child present too. Many schools now use online booking systems, but alternatively your child may need to book them. Either way, try to book as early as possible. If you have a specific query and do not manage to get an appointment for that subject teacher, email instead.
  • Try to support the school in terms of rules and expectations – this leads to a more productive relationship.
Your child
  • Adjusting to a new school with different expectations and a longer day can be exhausting. Your child may need a short break before tackling homework when they come in.
  • Consider limiting the number of out-of-school activities they do to begin with. However, it can be good to see old friends, so do not stop all their previous activities.
  • Try not to panic if they have not made a new circle of friends immediately. Developing new friendships takes time and self-confidence: as the term progresses it becomes easier as children find common ground.
  • During this first year, your child will probably grow up rapidly and begin to want greater independence. They may want more private space and time, or perhaps want to start going out to meet friends independently.
  • You may feel you know less about their friends, without meeting them on the playground. Suggest they invite them home occasionally. This gives you a chance to meet their parents on pick up too.
Work and homework
  • At the start of Year 7, secondary schools will already have your child’s SATs results and teacher assessments. Many schools also carry out either their own assessment or ‘CATs’ tests, as the summer holiday and the process of transition itself can often cause a dip.
  • The national curriculum is no longer assessed via levels; schools are responsible for their own assessment system, which may be explained to you at a parents’ meeting or via their website or documentation.
  • During the year, they are likely to be set homework which needs saving electronically. At the start of term, set up folders on the computer for each subject, ready to save homework into. Encourage them to create sensible file names so that they can easily find documents again. Also teach them to save their work as they go!
  • Your child may have exams during the summer term. Try not to overload them with pressure but support and encourage them.