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How can parents ease the transition from primary to secondary school?

For most parents, selecting a secondary school for their child can be a daunting and confusing procedure.  Once your child has finally secured a place there is still further worry and work on the part of parents to support their children with settling in.

Moving up to year 7 is a big step and means a number of major changes for all children.  These include changes to daily routine, movement between classes, subject specific teachers, independent travel to school, more homework, different  expectations, a need for greater organisational skills, meeting new children and learning new rules.  In addition 11-12 year olds are having to cope with huge changes physically and emotionally.

A series of studies over the past 20 years shows pupils regressing (particularly academically) between the last year of primary and the end of the first year of secondary school.

The engagement of parents in their children’s transition is crucial and here are some suggestions of what can be done to ease the process:


  • Make sure your child has an opportunity to visit their new school
  • Look at the school website/prospectus with your child
  • Speak to children already at the school
  • Get a map of the school
  • Be familiar with the route to school and try it out before


  • Over the summer holidays encourage your child to get to know local children who will be starting at the school
  • Discuss how they can approach children they don’t know, use role play
  • Encourage children to try new things, join clubs, teams and make the most of extra -curricular activities

 Home routine

  • Life at home needs to be steady and reliable
  • Establish good routines – eat well and get to bed at a reasonable hour
  • Shared meal times so interact as a family
  • Limit outside activities
  • Need unstructured time to relax


  • Make a visual planner/ daily checklist – mark in upcoming events
  • Ensure child has the correct stationary and equipment
  • Pack bags the night before with homework, sports kit, snack etc
  • Encourage child to be more independent at home and take responsibility
  • Help your child to write a homework timetable set up a structure and sense of organisation.


  • Listen and talk to your child about what they are thinking and feeling
  • Identify any concerns and encourage them to ask for advice
  • Make sure they know who to speak to at school for help
  • Take a daily interest – ask what they are learning, share 2 good things about the day and 2 things not so happy about.  You do the same about your day.
  • Share experiences about when you were growing up and normailse feelings of anxiety and uncertainty
  • Be alert for signs of difficulty and communicate with the school

 Boost confidence and self-esteem

  • Be positive and praise your child as much as possible for any small achievements (not just academic but effort, attitude etc)
  • With self- confidence they are less likely to be bullied, become more resilient and have the confidence to say no under peer pressure.

Adjusting to secondary school will not happen over night for some children (being realistic) it can take up to a year!