Preparing for the move to secondary school
Moving from primary to secondary school can be daunting. Secondary schools are usually much bigger, with more students and more teachers. There are lots of things to get used to: new buildings, new staff, new friends, new lessons and new expectations. In particular, the timetable is much more complex, often requiring students to move around the school. There are lots of things you can do to help your child adjust and have a happy and positive experience when starting secondary school.
It’s likely your child will know about many of the differences between their primary school and their new secondary school, especially if they were involved in the decision and if they visited their new school. However, it’s still useful to have a chat with them about some of the new things they’ll come across and to ask them how they feel about it.
Make sure they know that:
- they’ll probably have more homework than at primary
- they’ll be studying more subjects
- they’ll have to move to different classrooms and buildings for lessons
- they’ll have a different teacher for each subject
- they’ll be encouraged to be more independent, for example taking responsibility for their things, noting down homework deadlines, bringing in the right equipment and books, travelling to and from school
- there will be a set of school rules they must follow
- there may be more extracurricular activities for them to get involved in, like choir, homework club or sports.
If your child hasn’t visited the school, you might like to organise this ahead of them starting so they can familiarise themselves with the building and meet some staff. You could also ask the school for a map of the buildings so that they can find the lunch hall, lockers and classrooms. You could also ask for a timetable so that you can talk your child through where to go for their lessons. Some primary schools will have secondary transfer days if a large number of children from a primary school will be going to the same secondary school.
There will be more staff at secondary than your child will be used to at primary. Make sure your child knows which staff they will interact with on a daily basis, what they do and who your child should go to if they have any questions or problems at school.
Staff can include a form tutor, subject teachers, communication support workers, teaching assistants, lunchtime and playground staff, a Teacher of the Deaf, welfare staff and administrative staff.
Good information sharing between parents and school staff is crucial to a successful transition to secondary school, so it’s vital that you help staff at the new school understand your child’s needs. This will usually be via the school’s Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) and your child’s Teacher of the Deaf.
Once you know which school your child is going to, it’s a good idea to do a few practice journeys with them so that they can be confident about making the journey on their own when term starts. Many parents use the summer holidays as a time to do this, but it’s also useful to make the journey at the same time that your child would usually be travelling to or from school. This will give them a more realistic picture of how busy the bus might be or what times the train will arrive and so on.
Your child might be eligible for help with home-to-school travel:
In primary school, your child’s classmates and school staff have probably been used to their deafness and their needs, such as how they communicate, for many years. When your child starts secondary, they will meet new people for the first time and the staff and pupils will need to be made aware of it.
As well as you having conversations with staff about your child’s needs, help your child to feel confident to tell people about their deafness and their communication needs. You might like to practise this at home so that your child will feel comfortable talking about it at school. It’s particularly important for your child to feel able to ask teachers to make changes to help them access lessons or activities to support their achievement.
We have lots of information for deaf young people on how to ask for what they need:
- I can't understand my teacher – what do I do?
- How can I make my school more deaf aware?
- How can I make my friends deaf aware?
- What does support mean?
- What support can I get?
You could also share our top communication tips with their teachers.
Encourage your child to get involved with extracurricular clubs and activities at school (especially if they enjoyed these activities at primary) as this will show others that deafness isn’t a barrier to taking part.
Independence should be gained at a pace that is appropriate to each child or young person, but at secondary school many children will start to want to feel more independent than they were at primary.
It can be difficult for parents of both deaf and hearing children to feel comfortable giving their children more independence, especially if you’ve been used to doing a lot for your child, but it’s really beneficial for your child’s social and emotional development – forming friendships and enjoying school life. If other students see that your child isn’t very independent, they may not include them in activities. For example, if they know your child isn’t allowed to stay out after school, they may not ask them to go to the cinema.
Secondary school should be a time of fun, learning and development for your child. They’ll have the chance to start being independent and build on their understanding of the world around them, form friendships and develop their own personalities. There’ll be more emphasis on academic life than in primary school, but there’ll also be more chances for your child to grow, make friends and have fun!