Steven Winter, Deputy Head of Bethany School, explains the steps you can take to help your child transition from primary to secondary school.
“I don’t remember my first day at senior school, but for my children it was a very big deal indeed,” says Francie Healy, Headmaster of Bethany School in Kent. He has wide experience of supporting pupils – including his own three children – through the transition to senior school.
Through the autumn term, parents will no doubt be considering the next step for children in Year 6. Those relocating may be moving their child(ren) to a new school at other points within the year. Aside from obvious anxieties about new teachers and a new group of friends – and for some pupils a move to a new country – pupils moving from primary school often find it difficult to adapt to needing to navigate around the school during the day, instead of staying in one classroom, or to the longer school day.
At Bethany School, the numbers of new Year 7 pupils joining us this year are particularly buoyant. With new pupils coming from a wide variety of schools, a great deal of thought is given to making the settling in process as easy as possible. However, pupils do join in other year groups – and occasionally at other points during the school year – and all are given personalised support to ensure that they settle in as quickly as possible.
The following tips come from our experience in helping to support young people with one of the most significant transitions that they will face in their young lives:
1. Involve your child in the process of choosing their new school – take time to speak to them about what they want from a new school. Do they want to remain with friends or have a new challenge; or is it important for them to have particular needs met? Give them the opportunity to accompany you to Open Mornings and on individual tours so that they too can make an informed choice.
2. Grasp the opportunity for your child to take part in taster sessions or days to help with the orientation process. At Bethany School, pupils in Year 5 are offered the chance to join us for a Creative Education Day and then, in Year 6, we offer them a series of five Masterclasses in a range of subjects and activities, including High Ropes, Music and DT to support with the transition.
3. Take part in all induction opportunities for pupils and parents. At Bethany, we offer places for Year 7 entry in December and the first such induction opportunity is a team building morning for all those who have accepted a place in March, this is quickly followed by ‘Getting to know Bethany Day’ in June for parents and pupils and a final induction for new pupils in August, which includes an introduction to boarding for those who will be boarders.
4. Create a network of new parents to support the development of future friendships – one of the keys to success with this transition is to minimise the anxiety around making friends. Many parents who attend ‘Getting to know Bethany Day’ use the opportunity to connect with fellow new parents to set up play dates and sleepovers for their children to get to know each other and create some shared bonds before they start school together.
5. Be mindful that your children may find this transition exhausting. Whether that is finding a new classroom to new subjects or meeting lots of new people and remembering their names. Ensure that you support your child by managing their rest, especially at weekends, if necessary, reducing their extra-curricular activities for a short period so that they are fresh for the start of each new week with their homework done!
“At Bethany, we put the child at the heart of every decision, and that is particularly evident when it comes to welcoming new pupils. Our approach ensures that the pupil settles in quickly, makes friends and makes good academic progress, even if they struggled at their previous school. Developing and implementing best practice in helping children adjust to school life is just one of the reasons why Bethany School is so successful in inspiring individual excellence in every pupil.”
Francie Healy, Headmaster of Bethany School
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