Big School Ready – transition to primary school

Your child is growing up and it’s getting close to the time for you to start thinking about, or preparing for, their next journey in life by selecting or attending a primary school.

Starting school for the first time is a big change for your child and your whole family.  For children, and parents, it can often be both exciting and daunting at the same time.

So how do you choose a primary school?

This is one of the most frequent questions that I get asked by parents of kindergarten children which is naturally quite understandable as it can be a big decision.  It can be common for parents to feel anxious about making the right choice on deciding which school to send their child.

In some locations parents, actually don’t have the luxury of choosing a primary school as they are either zoned to a particular location or there is only one school that is close by.  For other families though school selection isn’t that simple and they might be looking at alternatives to a government school like a catholic or independent/private school for their child.

Whatever your current thoughts in relation to possible choices here are a few important points to assist with the decision-making process:

  • Have a bit of an idea of what you might be looking for or needing for your child in a prospective school. For example, does your child have any particular needs that require additional support.  It can be useful to put a bit of a list together as you think of things.
  • Speak to other families you know about their experiences with schools in the area.
  • Speak to kindergarten and childcare teachers to gain their perspective as they too also know your child well and what their needs are likely to be.
  • Make a list of prospective schools that you might be considering.
  • Visit those prospective schools to meet the principal and ask questions (more on this below). Make sure you do this during school hours as this allows you to see the school in operation and to gain a good feel of what it is like.

When you do a school tour here are a list of questions you might like to consider asking:transition to primary school

  • What does learning look like at this school? What is the school’s approach?
  • What facilities or programs does the school have to support a child’s learning?
  • How is technology used to support teaching and learning at this school?
  • What are the school’s values and in turn do they sit with your values?
  • What is the size of the school, the breakdown of classes and the number of children in each class?
  • What are the school’s academic results? What are their strengths and weaknesses?  What are they doing about improving any weaknesses?
  • If you have a child with additional needs then make sure you ask all the important questions that relate ie what support programs do they have in place? How is funding sought and allocated?
  • What opportunities are there for parent and family involvement?
  • Does the school work in partnership with families? How does this work?
  • How is communication between school and families handled?
  • What is the school’s policy on homework?
  • What is the school’s assessment and reporting processes?
  • What approach does the school take around managing behaviours?
  • What are the financial costs in relation to fees, uniform, supplies etc?
  • How involved is the parent body in the running of the school?
  • What is the school’s transition program? How and when does this take place?

Before making a decision on which school to choose, you might also like to consider other aspects like:

  • Where the school is located?
  • How will your child get to and from school?
  • Do you need before and after care and does the school offer it?
  • Where are your child’s friends going?

In making the final decision on which primary school, I usually tell parents to go with their gut feel as it is usually spot on. You know your child best and have a feel for the type of environment you believe will suit them.   I also follow this up by saying to please also note that if things don’t work out at the first school you choose then there are always options to change to another school.  I know many families who have done this over the years for a variety of different reasons and there has been little impact on their children as a result.

You have now made the decision on which primary school your child will attend so what now? 

Parents play an important role in supporting their children with the transition to primary school.  This transition is one of the most significant events in a child’s life and usually starts in the year prior to the starting school.  Any transition process evokes mixed feelings of stress, anxiety, excitement and nervousness for everyone.  Usually, these feelings are associated with uncertainty and the unknown.  Students and parents worry about what this will mean in terms of a new environment, new routines and new expectations.  Most primary schools have a transition or ‘orientation’ program in place to assist new students and their families.

Parents, along with kindergarten and childcare teachers, can help their children to cope with the new challenges they will face by assisting them to continue to focus on developing their social, emotional and learning skills.

Here’s a few tips on how you can support your child in the lead up to starting school:

  • Encourage them to learn to do things for themselves – packing and unpacking their bag, getting dressed by themselves, using a lunchbox, going to the toilet by themselves, asking for help when needed.
  • Teach them to look after their belongings.
  • Encourage and teach them about making friends and that all children will be in the same situation in that it is new for them too.
  • Encourage them to have a play with others that you know that are likely to be going to the same school.
  • Keep talking to them about primary school in a positive way and please don’t share any negative experiences you may have had or are aware of.
  • Continue to ask them how they are feeling and discuss any concerns or feelings they may have. Likewise discuss what they might be looking forward to.
  • Visit the school on weekends and spend time playing in the school yard and discuss things like how they will get to school and the sort of things they will do when there.

Finally, please remember the transition process is a time of change for parents as well – being aware of this can assist and where possible I encourage parents to look forward to the new opportunities to be involved in your child’s education.  Best of luck for the transition process to you and your child!

If you would like to know more about transition to primary school or to secondary school get in touch.

6 common concerns around transition to secondary school

Transition to secondary school is one of the biggest transitions a student will face in their lives. Whilst some children find the process very easy, many more can find this time quite daunting and stressful, and then you have others who are somewhere in between.

Common concerns

During my ‘Getting Organised for Transition Workshops’, usually in the later part of the school year, with Grade 6 students, I have found that these 6 common concerns around transition pop up time and time again during discussions.

  1. Will they be able to make friends? For some students, they are going off to secondary school on their own, and not with other students from their primary school and this in particularimage of 3 girls at school around transition to secondary school is a concern to them. Reassurance is needed that they are not the only ones and it is useful to remind them that they actually already know how to make friends and can do it again.  For other tips to assist them to make friends click here to read.
  2. Worried about the amount of the homework they will get. This comes up in nearly every discussion with grade 6 students. They are concerned that there will be a dramatic increase and that it will take up all their spare time.  The other concern they have is that it will be too hard for them as well.  They need to know that homework is going to increase and that it is good to begin developing a good homework routine early that will then allow them to have time for the other activities that are important to them.  Organisation and good time management is key!
  3. Going from being the oldest and biggest to the youngest and for some the smallest too.  The children are currently used to being the bigger ones at primary school usually in both age and size.  So thinking about going to secondary school this will be flipped on its head again.  Recently I had a boy stand up to demonstrate this concern to me by showing me how small he was now to his current classmates so he is feeling daunted by having even larger students towering over him.
  4. I won’t know my way around and will get lost easily.  Even though by now these children have often had one or two visits to the secondary school they will go to next year they are still concerned about not knowing where things are.  The size of the school will probably be double or triple in both size and numbers of students to what they are currently used to.  These concerns around new surroundings are normal even though it won’t take them long when they are there every day to become familiar.  Many schools will give the students maps they can familiarise themselves with too.
  5. Image of secondary school lockers for transitionThey have concerns around using lockers and forgetting their locker codes.  Whilst many students are excited about having the opportunity to have their own lockers they are often a little concerned at the same time.  They are currently used to having access to both their tubs and school bags inside their classrooms so having lockers is going to be quite a change for them.  They do not currently have locks and are often worried that they will forget their combination codes.  Fortunately, the school keeps record of them and has a master code (or bolt cutters) if needed.
  6. Getting detention. This is a common worry for students and gets raised time and time again.  I had one child ask me recently if he was going to get detention for making mistakes in his homework.  Naturally I reassured him that this was not the case and that by making mistakes that is actually how one learns.  I also usually tell them that if they continue to do the right things then detention won’t be an issue thy need to actually worry about.

What you can do now

The main messages that I give to students, teachers and parents at this time of year is to continue communicating and talking about all of these concerns and feelings they have.   Naturally any discussions should highlight they are not alone and that these feelings are very normal for this time of year. Where possible it also helps to be positive and encouraging to assist with the process.

For any assistance with transition, prior to or after, please don’t hesitate to get in touch as I offer a variety of workshops as well as 1:1 sessions with students.


12 tips on how to make new friends at secondary school

image of 3 girls at schoolOne of the biggest fears for many Grade 6 students  about going to secondary school is wondering how they will make new friends.

Whether they are going with others they already know, or going off to a secondary school all by themselves, this can be a very daunting time for many.  Some children make friends really easily, while others can find it difficult.  As you know friendships don’t happen over night and are usually formed when children have common interests.  So how do you help your child and assist them through these worries they may have?

Tips on making friends

Here are 12 tips that you can discuss with them to alleviate any concerns or anxiousness they may be feeling around having to make new friends:

  1. remind them that they already know how to make friends as they have friends now.
  2. talk to them and remind them that they are not alone – many others will be also going to school without friends and in the same situation as them. Discuss that it is natural to feel nervous or scared about a new situation and that these are normal feelings they maybe experiencing.
  3. talk to them about being themselves and not trying to be someone else and who they are not.
  4. to try and be confident – that they should be a friend to themselves by avoiding negative self thoughts.  Use helpful self-talk that is encouraging and reminder to be patient as well won’t hurt.
  5. be approachable when starting at a new school by saying ‘hello’.
  6. to smile and acknowledge someone – it goes a long way to breaking down barriers.  Remind them not to walk into a room looking at the floor or not at anyone as this isn’t a welcoming behaviour.
  7. get them to look for someone else who may also seem shy and say hello – remind them that they might even be shyer than them.
  8. introduce yourself and ask what the other person’s name is
  9. ask questions like ‘what school did you go to last year?’, ‘where do you live?’, what’s your favourite sport or subject?’
  10. be a good listener when talking to others and try and remember what they tell you.  Sometimes if you are in a group look for an opening to join into a conversation.
  11. get involved in activities that the school will have during transition days and at the start of the year as this will assist you to get to know others in your class and at the same year level.
  12. join clubs and activities at the school as this is a good way to meet other people too.

If your child is going to a different secondary school to many of their current friends, another useful thing to do is to encourage them to stay in touch and spend time with them.   Talk to them about how it is okay to feel sad about the upcoming changes but it doesn’t mean that they will forget each other because they are not going to secondary school together.  Remind them that it will be exciting to share their new school adventures when they next catch up!

As a parent just keep the lines of communication going around how to make friends and continue to offer support and guidance – here’s to many more friendships for your children.

If you’d like any assistance with the transition process please do get in touch as I run workshops around this for groups and can conduct 1:1 sessions too.

Transition to Secondary School

Transition to secondary school is a significant event in the lives of students.  It is a time of immense change – physical, social and emotional wellbeing.  Loaded on top then comes the demand of adjusting to a secondary school environment including higher academic and organisation needs.

As we approach this transition period in the coming months into early 2016 (at least in the southern hemisphere) it is important to continue to communicate with your child and their school about what the upcoming process involves.  You might think to yourself we have all been through it and coped okay so what is all the fuss about.  Well that might be true however many children begin to feel anxious about this and what it all means for them as the time approaches.

The biggest piece of advice I can give to parents going through this change, having been through this myself as a parent last year, is to be positive, encouraging and have regular discussions with your child to see how they are feeling.

Some of the words the Grade 6 students have been sharing with me recently in my workshops in terms of their thoughts, feelings and expectations around going to secondary school next year are that they are:

  • worried;
  • anxious;
  • excited;
  • nervous;
  • curious;
  • homework – is there a lot?;
  • worried about they type of work and it being harder;
  • worried about getting lost;
  • subjects – excited by more opportunities
  • what will the teachers be like?; and
  • will I make friends easily.

These are all very natural feelings for these students at this time and they are certainly not alone.  You can be assured that most children are feeling the same no matter what school they go to and what secondary school they will be starting at in 2016.

Transtion-graphic for websiteIf you have a Grade 6 student or know of someone who does please share my upcoming workshop where we discuss these sorts of things as well as focus on time management and organisation.

As a mother and professional organiser I am experienced in working with grade 6 students through my interactive workshops which are aimed to assist students in what to expect, decrease their levels of anxiety and give them strategies for a successful transition.

You can attend a workshop with your grade 6 child – click here  for details.  

Alternatively if you have children at a Melbourne Primary School or in surrounding areas then please let me know the school details so I can contact their school to see if they might be interested to run a workshop.