Preparing your child for secondary school

Helpful advice for parents and carers


For parents of children in their final year at primary school, the end of the summer term signals the end of one stage of their children’s life and the beginning of another. Moving to secondary school is a big step for children, and it’s natural to worry about their future, their education and, most importantly, their happiness come September.

The more practical side of starting secondary school can be forgotten. Luckily, you have a whole summer to get organised…

If the basic, but still important bits are organised with your support, like having the right pens and helping them make timetables for homework, they can put more energy into settling in, making friends and last but not least; learning!

It can be helpful to write a list (with them) and work through it, ticking off each thing as you go. Here are some suggestions to help you and your child get organised.

Before they start
  • Discuss how they’ll be getting to school. Help them learn their route over the holidays – do it with them – make sure they know what to do if their bus is late or train cancelled.
  • If they’ll be coming home before you do, make sure they are able to use the house keys.
  • Buy uniform and kit – perhaps talk to other parents higher up at the school and find out what you actually need. Aim for sizes that will see them through the first couple of years.
  • Make them aware of homework and the increased workload. It’s a big leap from having one piece due the next day to several pieces for many different subjects, all due at different times.
  • Check they’ve got the right pens and equipment.
  • New secondary school students often worry about the little things such as how to buy lunch, where the toilets are etc. Remind them that they’ll have induction sessions and they’ll be shown around and given maps to orientate themselves.
  • Remind them to be brave, if they’re shy, and to chat to peers. Everyone is in the same boat and will be looking for new friends.
    Learn how to tie a tie! Make sure they know what’s expected in terms of appearance and uniform.
  • Make sure you’re both fully aware of the school’s digital policy on personal devices such as tablets and smart phones. Schools differ, with some being happy for your children to use smart phones as a learning tool in lessons, and others preferring students to keep them switched off.
Their first few weeks
  • Remind them to write down homework, with notes explaining what they need to do and when it’s due – though their homework may well be posted online, which means you will also be able to keep up with their schedule.
  • Give them emergency money.
  • Make sure they’re getting enough sleep. When they hit their teen years, they’ll need around 9 hours sleep a night, so it’s a good idea to get them into responsible sleeping habits early. For more information, have a look at our article on teens and sleep.
  • Go to the intro evenings and meet other parents. It can be difficult to build a parental network without the sociable school gate culture of primary school. Building a network will be helpful in the long run and will help you feel less isolated as a parent.
  • Don’t panic if they’re not happy after their first day or first week or two. It takes time to adjust and make friends. Remind them it’s OK to not know where everything is, and to not have a group of friends immediately – it will happen in time.
  • Try to resist the temptation of asking them every day if they’ve made friends yet, or if they’re settling in nicely, as it can put pressure on them and might make them worry if it’s taking them longer than other children.