Leaving primary school for the last time and anticipating what life will be like in the big school is what all children experience in the UK.
Gone will be the days where you children spend much of their time in one classroom sitting in the same seat.
Transitioning from primary to secondary means becoming more independent in many ways from travelling further to school, and following a timetable of where you should be for class.
- Idea: Make copies of the timetable for your locker and at home
Transitioning from Primary to Secondary School
Welcoming a class of 30 children at 8.30 am and giving them back at 3.30 pm Monday to Friday does not qualify me to talk from a parent perspective.
For 6 years I was a secondary school teacher of business & mathematics. During my time as a teacher I observed the majority of children coping and adapting from lesson to lesson, although for a few, dramatic changes in school life were a challenge.
I remember one 11 year old child on the first day arriving at school coming up to me asking “Are you Mr ……. my teacher” Yes, I am your form tutor, and you have a number of different teachers.
You can give your pupils ideas of secondary schools
- Many more pupils, dinner hall line longer
- You move from class to class with just enough time to arrive
- Given a locker, otherwise you carry your bag around the school to each class
- More equipment to use in lessons that are more practical
- Lot of teachers providing guidance, or telling you what to do
- Clubs at lunchtime, after school and other events to join or take part at least once
- Think more independently and organise for yourself
- Emotional time for a child and parents alike. Support and encourage each other
- No need to be alone, speak to and hangout with friends you will make
Sir, I left my pencil case in the last lesson, can I just go and get it? No, here are some spares I have and when the lesson is over go and get the case. Organise!
Always someone to ask or to inform: form tutor, class subject teacher, and head of year. Your child will not be alone at school, should an issue arise in or outside of school any teacher can be approached.
Placed in sets for lessons
Like it or not your older school children are placed in sets according to academic ability for English, mathematics and other subjects, although possibly not in independent or international schools.
The school uses results from tests taken just before leaving primary school, and will place the brightest in top set to less academic people in lower sets.
Students can move up or down a set depending on progress, although my observation is that a head of department only moved a small proportion of children in a given year.
Top set lessons are delivered at a bit faster pace with extended questions, where set 2 and below standard lesson format in pace and difficulty is generally followed.
Impact of small class
Depending on the class size positive or negative factors exists for each lesson. Generally, most classes will have 30 pupils, although for bottom set there can be as few as 12.
Downside is that when it comes to P.E for example, there are not enough boys to play ruby.
Timetable arrangements mean only mixed team games with girls & boys in the same class, where latter in the day your child sees other classes their own age playing ruby, football (All boys).
Going all the way through secondary school and never play an all male or female sport at school like other supposed able pupils is a possibility.
Join a local club for a sport you are interested in, think of school as an extra for sport.
Smaller class sizes mean more space and individual guidance from teachers in lessons.
Homework each week
Set homework days are negotiated between departments to avoid too much work being set on the same day.
Twice a week I was instructed to give maths homework, each day what should take around 20 minutes for 11-12 year old (Yr 7/S1), 40 minutes 12-13 (Yr 8/S2) years up words.
Mum/dad can you help me with my homework? As the years progress concepts and problem solving in English, sciences and maths becomes more difficult.
Should you wish to be involved why not learn with your child, well some. There maybe times where your child did not fully understand some questions from class work and feel unable to complete all the set work at home. One idea is to write in the exercise book
“I tried to do this question, but I did not fully understand the topic from the lesson”
You as a parent can write something to this effect, or your child.
Teachers and especially head teachers around the country are now shouting at me for writing this online.
Practical equipment for lessons
- Not much items that you as a parent require to purchase.
- Bag that is functional, not one of these cool drawstring, pencil case, protractor, compass, black & blue pens, pencils, rubber, ruler, sharpener.
- Casio calculator is sufficient for all 11-16 year old lessons in mathematics. Hardly used a calculator in the first year of secondary in my maths lessons, use of mental maths is more important.
- Idea: Scratch initials on the back.
Specialist teacher assistant for booster lessons
One significant difference between moving from primary is secondary education teaching assistants specialise in a certain subject.
Some pupils do benefit being taken out of class and given instruction from a higher level teacher assistant (TA). Up to 12 in a group from science, English or maths pupils receive more individual attention to help them catch up and to achieve to the best of their ability.
School budgets are tight, with not that many schools able to provide TA’s for the entire class to achieve their predicted grade for a subject.
Seating plan in classrooms
As teachers we decide who sits where or which group of students form together for group work, it is not a debate between students or from parents.
Seating plans are followed for each class, although someone could say “I work & achieve more with …..” and an exchange can be made.
Favourite item to school
This is where as a teacher I was regularly told off by the senior management team for not following exact school policy.
Be it a chain, earring or another item not to be worn or seen at school, leave it at home.
A class teacher is under strict orders to enforce school policy when they come across a student who is wearing or using something that is against school rules.
Each school has their own procedure after confiscation, including a parent that requires collecting the item from school or receiving the item back after a certain number of days.
The school will not bend the rules just for your child, discipline and following instructions are equally important as learning.
Organise and bag packing
Your child’s high school will provide a list of items that is expected to be brought to school & lessons; this will be in a school planner.
Packing of a school bag the night before helps with the last minute dash and forgetting something.
There are not many practical cooking classes each year where you as a parent go on treasure hunt for the list of ingredients for your daughter/son to use in school cooking lessons.
Inform the school of requirements your child needs, such as medical insulin injection, regular doctor appointments in advance.
School student academic progress
Results from tests and report cards being brought home from primary school show excellent progress & good grades.
Pupils making steady progress from year to year generally what happen, and for some the same A grade does not continue.
Children learn, accumulate knowledge, build analytical & problem solving skills at different ages and pace.
Learning & development does not always continue for a number of reasons form distractions, emotion or loss of interest.
Specialist subject teachers
Shortage of specialist teachers for chemistry, physics, mathematics, biology and computing exists in the UK.
In some schools the class teacher may not be a specialist, or not have an education background in the subject they teach.
Schools attract the best teachers they can, although each year teaching positions remain unfilled as they could not attract a specialist teacher.
What happens then is that the school will appoint a teacher to fill the role with the most suitable qualifications.
The teacher shortage is not the schools fault; it is a mixture of people choosing other careers, workload, and better pay elsewhere for similar skills.
What can I change at school?
A school is set up in a given way for a reason, uniform, discipline, policy, homework, extra curricular lessons and sports clubs.
No two secondary or international schools are the same, as a head teacher can choose to implement what they perceive is the best to achieve desired academic results and for school pupil discipline.
Uniform: Your son or daughter attends school with shirt/blouse, tie, trousers and blazer and your neighbour’s child goes to the school nearby with trousers and t-shirt. Nothing you can change on your own.
You can question:
- Why is a teacher absent so often?
- Supply teachers use?
- When is a specialist teacher going to be appointed for my child’s lessons?
These 3 alone impact on lessons and pupil progress towards their predicted grade.
This is just an insight into what a child should expect when transitioning and moving from primary to secondary school.
No doubt you will have lots of questions yourself and will require answers to provide to your child, even in choosing the next school.