As a parent, when your child first starts primary school, you think they’ll be there forever and the school run will never end. Then, out of nowhere, you’re applying for secondary school and packing them off to walk to the bus stop alone.
So much changes once they hit secondary school; here are a few things you might not have thought about.
Most primary schools host at least two parents’ evenings a year. The teachers are often on the gate at home time, or in their classroom at the end of the day, for you to pop in and see them. At secondary school, you may find you only have one parents’ evening a year.
Reports are no longer sent home in an envelope personally written, they’re a heap of letters or numbers you download from the app.
This lack of personal contact and communication is the biggest adjustment for many parents. You’re so conditioned to seeing how your child is getting on and viewing their homework to see if they got it right. Now, suddenly, you’re totally in the dark.
The best way to ensure you still know what’s going on is to trust your child. Be a part of their learning at home, ask to see their homework and talk to them about what they’re doing. You may be faced with a grunt, or ‘stuff’, or ‘I don’t know – maths’, but a look at their homework should give you some info.
You can also email your child’s form or subject teacher if you think there’s a problem, or arrange to go in and have a meeting with them.
Each school is different, but for most, you download the report on an app or view it online and you have to try and work out what it means.
Most secondary schools run things very differently from junior. The amount of effort your child puts in is usually represented by a number. The level they’re working to is indicated by a letter.
We won’t go into this in too much detail, as each school can work differently and we don’t want to tell you a ‘M’ means something great, only to find out it actually doesn’t.
If you’re unsure, pick up the phone. Ask the school to explain it better. Or, if your school has a parents’ forum or Facebook group, join it and watch the chatter, even if you’re too worried to ask, another parent might not be.
You’ve gone from either dropping your child at school each day, or seeing them off to walk with their friends. Now, they leave on their own and get on a bus packed full of every age group if it’s a school bus, or adults as well if it’s a public bus. Your child will generally just get on with it, but you may not take to it so easily.
Make sure your child has a phone with them, keep it topped up (for emergencies only not Instagram) and instil in them that they text when they get to school. If you know they’ll forget, you can download a tracking app that allows you to see where they are. This can feel intrusive, but it needs to be a family decision.
For many children this is the first time they’ve had freedom away from you. Keep the lines of communication open, don’t hound them with questions, but let them come to you and tell you their gossip.
Ensure you give them time to talk as well. When they get in, offering them a cup of tea and not asking them how their day was until they’ve sat down for ten minutes can be more beneficial then asking them the minute they walk in when they’re shattered.
This also gives you the chance to look out for signs they may not be happy. Having the same routine every day, as soon as they walk in, helps to establish a place and time where they can download their day. If they shy away from it, seem to be trying to avoid you, or are quiet or aggressive, it can mean they’re trying to bottle something up.
Tread lightly, don’t push, let them breathe a bit before addressing it. If they still won’t say what’s going on, speak to the school and see if they’ve noticed anything going on.
Moving to secondary school is a huge step for children and their parents. There’s no right or wrong way of doing it. Just trust that you’ve given them the tools and support they need to succeed and be safe.