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How to help your child make the transition to a new class

Posted on 28 May 2015

Summer fairs and rainy sports days mean the end of the school year is fast approaching.  Whether your child is moving onto secondary or starting school for the first time now is a great time to prepare them for their next step. 

We’ve rounded up useful tips on starting school for the first time, moving to a new class and onto secondary school.

Preparing your pre-schooler for big school

Starting school is a huge milestone for both your and your child.  There is much you can do to give your child the confidence, independence and social skills to thrive at school.

Everyday Practical skills

Most importantly ensure your child is confident about getting to the toilet on time, wiping properly, flushing and washing their hands.  Accidents will inevitably happen so reassure them what will happen if they wet themselves.

Reception teachers tell hilarious stories about children taking 50 minutes to get changed for a PE class leaving 10 minutes for physical activity!. Encourage your child to practice putting on their uniform and cope with buttons, zips and shoes. 

If your child will be having school dinners they will be expected to carry their food tray from the serving hatch to their table.  Practice carrying food to the table at home and encourage them to pour water for themselves into a beaker.

Help develop hand strength and co-ordination by involving your child in a range of everyday activities such as cooking and gardening and letting them get crafty with play dough and crayons.

There’s no expectation for your child to start school able to read but it will help if they can recognize their name on a coat peg.  Encourage name recognition by writing their name on the bottom of pictures they draw.

Social skills

Play a range of games with your child and model the behavior that will help them fit in with other children such as taking turns, sharing and being a good loser.

Your child will be expected to follow their teacher’s instructions.  Develop listening skills through “Simple Simon” type games during which you give an instruction for them to carry out and praise them when they successfully complete the task.

Children that can say what they think and express how they feel will be confident at school.  Take every opportunity to talk with your child without distractions.  Encourage them to practice talking with “safe adults” in the library, supermarket or café.   

Tales of the unexpected

Help them to understand what to expect at school by reading storybooks together such as Janet and Allan Ahlberg’s “Starting School” or “I Am Too Absolutely Small” for School by Lauren Child. 

As well as creating a positive impression of school these stories will help your child raise any questions or concerns.

Most schools offer home visits where your child’s future teacher visits your home to meet them, as well as opportunities to visit the school / new classroom.  Make the most of these opportunities to familiarize your child with the school. 

Moving up a year

For those children already at school moving up to the next year can produce mixed emotions.  Your child may be excited about moving up the school ladder but apprehensive about what awaits them; new academic demands, new teacher, new social circle. 

All children need to feel connected to their teacher to feel comfortable in the classroom.  Most schools have a “transition day” when children spend the morning with their new teacher.    You can facilitate your child’s bonding with them by making encouraging noises such as “when you are in Miss Hoolie’s class I bet she’ll be impressed with how good your are at tidying up.”

Moving onto secondary school

My daughter starts secondary school in September and her concerns like many children’s revolve around feeling small, getting lost, knowing where the loos/ canteen are and detentions.

Moving onto secondary school is a big deal.  It represents a step towards autonomy and the whole process of growing up and leaving childhood behind.  It can be overwhelming for children and parents alike. 

Build your child’s self-confidence

Your child will settle more easily if they have a positive sense of themselves.  Children with high self-esteem are less likely to be bullied, have a wide circle of friends and are able to say no to anything they don’t feel comfortable with.

Help build their self-esteem by noticing things they do well and offering specific praise when you see them doing it.  

Listen to their fears and show you take them seriously no matter how leftfield they may seem. Talk through each concern and discuss how your might address each together.  If your child seems overwhelmed by concerns try writing them down in a notebook, addressing each one in turn and asking your child to tick them off the list when they feel they have a coping strategy.

To have a friend you first need to be a friend

Remind your child of the principles of making friends. Facilitate friendships by encouraging your child to bring new friends home to hang out with.

Nurture independence and set ground rules

Do trial runs of the journey to school during the summer holidays.  If your child will be catching public transport discuss and agree what they will do if they miss their bus or train. 

Make sure they have some emergency money and credit on their mobile ‘phone for unexpected changes to plans.  With their newfound independence many children like to pop into each other’s houses on the way home from school.  Lay down ground rules about the time you expect them home and the sort of behavior you expect from them and other children visiting your home when you are not there to supervise. 

The volume of homework your child receives will increase from primary school.   Instill good homework habits from day one ensuring they have a space and environment conducive to work in and a routine that helps them manage their workload.

Article by Rachel Hesslegrave from Native.  The views are the author’s own.

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