If you’re a parent, here’s something you don’t need us to tell you: finding the right secondary school for your child, and coping with the move, can be a very stressful time. And not just for you – but for your child, too. It’s true that children may not recognise it as stress, but they’re still very likely to experience feelings of anxiety – and even fear – when moving ‘up’ to secondary school.
So, what can you do about it? Well, there’s no magic bullet. There’s no single thing that will eliminate all stress, in all cases. Much is down to personal circumstances. But there are things that can help you reduce the stress to a minimum, and perhaps even remove it altogether. There’s a very good chance that you’ll already be aware of some or all these things, as most of them are pretty obvious, but we thought we’d compile a handy checklist here. We hope you find it useful.
Finding the ‘right’ school
Simply picking the closest school is one way to go. But, unless you already know a lot about that school, it’s very possible that it won’t be the best match to your child’s interests, needs and personality. After all, you want a school which will allow them to thrive, both in an academic and social sense. You want to place them in an environment that they enjoy, and which helps them develop as a person. And the best way to find such an environment is to do the research. The details of this will vary with what you already know about the school, but a general guideline is as follows:
- Find the schools that your child can apply for
- Look at each schools Ofsted report
- Shortlist your potential options
- Visit each school shortlisted – don’t stop at the first, no matter how good that one is
- Talk to the teachers and see the relationship they have with their students
- Check what facilities each school has
- Find exam results and statistics for each
- Do they excel in subjects that your child has an interest in?
- Think about feasibility and travel costs for the daily commute
- Make second (and even third) visits to your favourites – Do not rush this decision
- Speak to parents of children that attend the school for a more honest opinion
Don’t forget that it’s important to involve your child wherever possible. So, take them with you when you visit. This can help to generate a sense of excitement and anticipation, which can go a long way to reducing any anxiety they may feel.
Helping your child cope
Moving to a secondary school is a ‘Big Deal’ in the eyes of most children. It can be intimidating and full of the unknown. To help them cope, it’s a good idea to give them lots of reassurance and advice. You need to do it gently and in your own way.
But it often helps to encourage them to:
- Stay positive! Focus on the fun things, not the scary things
- Remember – they’re not the only one who’s nervous. Everybody is
- If something is bothering them, encourage them to talk about it – to family or friends
- Check out the school’s website and social media to see the fun things available to them
- Don’t be afraid to ask for advice
- Make new friends by getting involved with school clubs and activities
- Just be themselves – relax and don’t try to be what they’re not
Schools reaching out to potential students
Many schools, aware that this is a stressful time in a child’s life, use their websites and social media as a tool to show new and potential students what the school is about, what it offers, and how it interacts with its pupils throughout the year.
Many of these online resources are excellent. But one – from Fallibroome Academy, in Macclesfield – struck us as especially good. Found within section of their website dedicated to new and potential students, is their ‘welcome video’.
The short film follows a student through her nervy first day at the school and – in so doing – showcases everything the school has to offer, in a very entertaining way! It took the school 9 months to create the video, and since its launch it has had over 87,000 views! And no wonder, it’s a fantastic welcoming tool for any potential student.
But don’t take our word for it, have a look for yourselves.
If that doesn’t make you want to choose that school, nothing will!