Expert advice on entry to some of the most competitive senior schools in the UK.

Starting Secondary School

Believe it or not, one day all the 11 Plus hard work is over, and your child has a lovely new school to go to with all its possibilities and opportunities that this entails. Well done to you for getting them there! However, the excitement can sometimes be mixed with anxiety and so here are a few tips to make sure everything goes smoothly.  

What might your child be worrying about or maybe feeling anxious about?

1. Having been the top of the tree and all-powerful in the last year of primary school they are suddenly bottom of the tree and feeling very small, in a new, often much bigger environment.

Our top tips for building confidence when starting secondary school:

  • Remind your son or daughter that everyone is in the same boat when they start
  • They may want to stick very close to any friends from their primary school, but encourage them to also chat with the new children in their class
  • Your tutor may also be able to advise (many of our tutors have taught at London secondary schools).

2. Primary School children are usually taken to school and even if they might relish their new independence, it is a big step to start travelling to senior school independently.

Our top tips for travelling to school by themselves:

  • Have several trial runs of the journey, building up their independence gradually
  • Ask them to text you when they have arrived safely at school or are starting the journey home
  • Download an app such as ‘Find my friends’ or ‘Life360’ so you can track where they are
  • Arrange for them to travel with a friend if possible
  • Keep emergency phone numbers in their bag in case they lose their phone and need to contact you.

3. At primary school, your child probably had some secure, established friendships and knew many children in their year. They might be joining a new school knowing few people and feeling nervous about making new friends.

secondary school students running out of class at the end of the day

Our top tips for making friends:

  • Remind your child that friendships take time to develop and don’t happen overnight
  • Tell them not to panic if they haven’t made a friend instantly
  • Encourage your child to join a club or team to meet new friends based on shared interests in other forms and year groups
  • Encourage them to grow from their primary school personality and explain they have a fresh start and can reinvent themselves somewhat in terms of who they hang around with and what their passions or hobbies are.

4. Children might feel nervous about the new subjects they will be tackling and managing their homework timetables. Children might also feel anxious knowing that they will be expected to organise themselves much more and get themselves where they need to be around the school site.

Our top tips for getting organised when starting secondary school:

  • Ensure your child packs their bag the night before and don’t be tempted to do it for them!
  • Get them used to looking at their timetable and thinking about what they need for each lesson
  • Show them how to put reminders in their phone for anything important to remember
  • Make sure there is a secure place for them to put travel cards and canteen passes
  • Make sure they have some emergency money in their bag.

5. Children often receive a smartphone when they start secondary school and research shows that they often receive hundreds of WhatsApp and social media friend request in the first few weeks. This can be totally overwhelming. Children often have their first experience with social media around this age and often have little knowledge about how to set up correct privacy settings etc.

Our top tips for new mobile phone usage

  • Reassure your child that they do not need to accept every friend request, particularly from people or numbers they do not recognise
  • Explain that they do not need to reply to people messaging them straight away and should not feel pressured to do so
  • Show them how they can turn off notification lights and sounds when they want to switch off and relax
  • Enforce good habits around not having their phone in their room at night and having a break from their phone before they go to bed
  • Explain that bullying can easily happen in big group chats and encourage them to keep group chats to a sensible number of people that they do know
  • Encourage them to let you know if they think bullying is happening online to themselves or other children. Importantly, make sure you react calmly and constructively if they do share any bad online behaviour so that they know they can trust you not to overreact.

Our top tips for parents setting up a new mobile phone for children

  • Set parental controls on your home broadband to prevent your children from seeing adult content on their smartphone at home
  • Check also that parental controls are also set up on your child’s mobile network
  • Consider disabling location services on their phone so that your child does not inadvertently share their location with others
  • Use the device settings so they can only download age-appropriate apps and games
  • Set up password controls or disable in-app purchasing so that big bills are not run up accidentally
  • If your child is also using social media apps, check their profile and policy settings making sure they are not sharing personal or private information with people they do not know.

Find more helpful tips on dealing with the transition to secondary or senior school:

Get in Touch

For more advice, whatever stage of the senior school journey you’re at, contact our team.