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Preparing for the move to secondary school

Boy doing school workMoving to secondary school from primary can be a daunting time. Secondary schools are usually much bigger, with more pupils and more teachers than primary schools. 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, requiring students to move around the school and be taught by a number of teachers. There are lots of things that you can do to help your child adjust and have a happy and positive experience when starting secondary school.

Travelling to school

Your state government can provide a subsidised travel pass for your child to get to and from school using public transport. Application forms are available from your child's school in Term IV. They need to be returned to the school before the end of the year to make sure all passes are available for the start of the new school year. You will need to know the public transport services available between your home and the school.

Once you know which school your child is going to, it is a good idea to do a few trial runs with them so that they can be confident about making the journey on their own when term starts. Many parents use the summer holiday as a time to do this, but it is 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.

Whatever the transport arrangement it is also important that you help your child to develop independent travelling skills as and when it is appropriate. This will also help build their confidence.

In some cases, the education department may offer transport assistance to and from school. There are usually strict eligibility criteria and the situation is reviewed each year.

Getting used to the new school

It is likely that your child will know about many of the differences between their primary school and their new secondary school, as they may discuss these with their primary school teacher. It is still useful to discuss some of the new things they may encounter, as this will help them to be prepared when they start.

Most students attend extensive transition days with their peers before starting high school. They can walk around the buildings so that they are familiar to them on their first day. They may get a chance to meet some of the teachers and other staff at the school. They can find out where the school hall, lockers, gym and classrooms are located.
 

Timetables
Subjects in high school are usually taught in lessons of 40 to 60 minutes, called 'periods'. Each subject will be taught for one or two periods at a time. To keep track of all their lessons and classrooms, your child will be given a timetable that shows their subjects, period times and room locations. Most secondary schools operate on fortnightly timetables.

It is a good idea to help your child check their timetable when they get home every evening so they can be sure to pack their bag with everything they need for the next day - such as books, writing materials, PE uniform and sporting equipment.

Source: From primary to high school: the next big step - http://www.schools.nsw.edu.au/
School staff

There are likely to be greater numbers of school staff at secondary school. Find out about the staff at the school and talk to your child about their roles. Key teaching staff responsible for supporting your child are likely to be:

  • the year advisor - usually a senior teacher with responsibility for the whole of the year group;
  • the school's special educational needs coordinator who will be responsible for ensuring your child's individual education plan or personal learning plan is implemented, and reviewing and coordinating special educational needs support for your child.

Explain to your child which staff they will interact with on a daily basis, and which they might only see occasionally. This might include the year advisor, subject teachers, Teacher of the Deaf, school counsellor and administrative staff. If your child knows about the different staff that work at the school, they will know who to contact if they have any questions or problems whilst at school.

Good information is crucial to a successful transition to secondary school. You can help staff at the new school to understand your child's needs. The school's special educational needs coordinator should ensure all staff who work with your child are aware of their needs. However, it is important for you to make sure that they know about your child's deafness, and offer to answer any questions they may have about working with your child. It is likely that your child's Teacher of the Deaf will work with the school to help them ensure a smooth transition into secondary school, but it might also be useful for you to be in contact with school staff.

Help your child to feel confident enough to tell people about their deafness and their communication needs. You could practise this at home, so that your child will feel comfortable enough to do the same at school when it is required. If your child feels that a teacher or other member of staff is not deaf aware, and they are not able to access lessons or activities, this will help them feel confident enough to explain this to the teacher or other member of staff.

Lessons

Lessons will also be very different in secondary school. In primary school the majority of lessons are held in one room. In secondary school pupils will probably have to move to a different classroom for each lesson. This can be quite daunting for a child in their first week at school, but if they are prepared for it, they may feel more confident when they start.

High school students in classQuite often, because of the larger number of subjects children study at secondary school, they have to carry more books and equipment around with them on their journey and sometimes during the school day. Make sure your child understands that they will be responsible for looking after their property throughout the school day.

Your child may also be learning about more subjects than they have in the past, which can feel like a lot to take in during the first few weeks. It might be useful to encourage your child to think about all the different subjects that they will be learning about before they start. They could research them on the internet, or get books out of the library. Find out from the school what subjects they teach pupils in the first year, and introduce your child to any subjects from this list that they are not familiar with, or have not done at primary school. This can help them feel more confident in their first few lessons.

The following websites give more information about the curriculum in your state:

Homework

It is likely that the secondary school will require pupils to spend more time on homework than primary schools. This may surprise some pupils if they are not prepared. Homework will be on a wider range of subjects and for several teachers rather than just one. It will be important for your child to be aware of the different deadlines for handing in homework. Help your child to recognise that doing homework is one way to keep learning about a subject, and it will help them to understand the work they do in the classroom.

It is likely that your child will need to keep a school diary at secondary school. These are used in many schools to keep lesson timetables, make records of homework tasks and deadlines, and write information about clubs and activities. To get your child used to this idea, encourage them to keep a diary like this over the last term of primary school, and perhaps over the summer holiday. This will be good practice for when they are at secondary school, and will help them see the use of keeping a diary to organise their days and homework.
 

You can help your child by:
  • Taking an active interest in their homework
  • Supporting them in setting aside time each day for homework
  • Providing a dedicated place for homework and study if possible
  • Assisting teachers to monitor homework by signing completed work if requested, and being aware of the amount of homework being set
  • Communicating with teachers any concerns about the nature of homework or your child's approach to homework
  • Encouraging your child to read and take an interest in current events
  • Alerting the school to any domestic circumstances or extracurricular activitites which may need to be taken into consideration when homework is being set or marked
Source: From primary school to high school: The next big step - Understanding your child's schoolwork - 
http://www.schools.nsw.edu.au/
Exam time

Find out what exams and assessments your child will be expected to take. It will be useful for both you and your child if your child knows what to expect in terms of what preparation they need to do (for example, revision and coursework) and when their assessments and exams will be. Discuss these with your child and reduce any anxieties they might have by helping them to be well prepared. Offer to help your child with their revision, or give them space and time to prepare for exams themselves.

School rules

All children should be told about what rules the school has in place when they start. Encourage your child to be confident that they know about rules and regulations such as: doing homework, school uniform, mobile phones, and arriving at lessons on time. Help your child to understand these rules and what may happen if they have trouble keeping to the school rules.

Extra curricular activities

Secondary schools have activities, groups and clubs at lunchtimes and outside of school time. Help your child to find out what their secondary school provides, and if they are interested in any of these things, encourage them to try them out. It might be useful to suggest that they go with friends too, as this may make it easier for them to join.

Bullying

Tell your child that if they have problems at school with other pupils or even teachers, they should tell a member of staff straight away. All schools have an anti-bullying policy, and it is helpful to look at this before the start of term so that you and your child know what to do if bullying should occur.

Ask your child to let you know if they are worried about school, and make sure that there are staff who your child feels that they can raise problems with if they want to. If children feel that they can go to someone if they are being bullied, the bullying can be dealt with immediately. If they do not tell anyone that it is happening, it may not be spotted by school staff and may continue.

Developing independence

Independence should be gained at a pace that is appropriate to each child, but at secondary school many children will start to want to feel more independent than they were at primary school. Encourage them to develop their interests, let them discover themselves and learn to do things for themselves at the appropriate times, as being more independent will help your child to enjoy life at secondary school, for example, going on weekend outings like bowling, or staying after school for activities.

If other pupils see that your child is not very independent, they may not include them in activities. For example, if they know your child is not allowed to stay out after school, they may not ask them to go to the cinema, or may not ask them to play in the school tennis tournament. As your child gains independence, they may also gain confidence at school, they may feel more comfortable about communicating with different people, or may feel more confident about doing well in their studies. However, it is important that you are always aware of what level of independence is appropriate for your child.

Getting involved with your child's secondary school

If you want to get involved in school life, there are many things you can do. You can join the P & F association, become a regular volunteer or become a member of the school council. You could help out at the school sports day or at after school clubs and events.

Make sure that the school knows about anything that your child is going through that may affect their school life. Things that can affect how a child is at school include parents getting divorced or health problems in the family. If the school is aware of any issues your child is facing, they will be able to be sympathetic and support them at school in an appropriate way.

Four high school boysRemember...

Secondary school should be a time of fun, learning and development for your child. They will have the chance to develop their independence and understanding of the world around them, develop friendships, and develop their own personalities. There will be more emphasis on academic life than in primary school, but there will also be more chances for your child to develop, make friends and have fun!


Information provided by National Deaf Children's Society. Reproduced with permission.
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03-Dec-2015 8:35 AM (AEST)