Is it ever too early for parents to think about transition?

Now there’s a question! I was recently invited into a primary school parents evening, an invitation i accepted without a second thought. What a great opportunity to speak to year 6 parents about the changes that are heading their way when the children make the move from primary to secondary school. The staff could not have been more welcoming and I was soon found a table (and a cuppa) to base myself and I waited patiently to see if any year 6 parents had any questions for me. I was ready and armed with an arsenal of advice.

How many year 6 parents came to see me? None! Not one parent ……… of a year 6 child. I was however inundated with parents of year 5 children, keen to know what the process for applying for secondary school will be, what they need to think about, what advice I had for them during the ‘deciding phase’ and so much more! This was all music to my ears, talk about being prepared and planning ahead. In hindsight I think this is the audience that the school had in mind, another win for primary education in my eyes.

It was fantastic to hear stories of how some parents had ‘done the rounds’ of visits early in year 5 so that, as a family, they had as much information as possible to make the decision when the time came. It was refreshing to hear stories of parents planning on visiting schools that they might not have considered applying for. We were able to discuss reputations of schools being a tiny part of the decision making process. Nothing beats your own experiences of being in a school and meeting the staff that your children will be working with on a daily basis but, as a parent, you will have far less contact with. We were able to discuss journeys to school, rather than distances and how to start to ‘get our head around’ the realisation that very soon our children will not need us to make that journey with them. Starting secondary school is often the first step to becoming truly independent. A terrifying thought while the children are still in year 5, but one that must be considered.

I really hope that I was able to put some parents mind at ease. There were some very genuine concerns about the application process and there were some secondary school myths that needed to be dispelled. If you have ever had to apply for a school place you will know what a complicated system it can be, understanding the criteria for each school, knowing what to expect from an Open Evening visit. Big School can be scary places. Especially these days, am I just really old or does it feel like schools are getting bigger and bigger? This can be daunting for children and indeed parents. Just think if its scary to visit the school with the safety of a parent/carer, how scary will it be in September of year 7?

I know that for some areas of the country there is very little in the way of decision making when it comes to choosing a secondary school for your child Primary X means you go to Secondary Y. In other areas it feels like there is too much choice! So when should you start looking? I think these parents have got it spot on, get in there early when there is much less pressure to make a decision that year. You get a chance to see the schools at least twice and get a real feel for what you think your future will be like should you attend that school in the future.

Is it ever too early for parents to think about transition to secondary school? I honestly think that the answer is no! Moving school is a big deal, for everyone! If this is the first time, as a parent, that you are doing this I think it’s good to start thinking about it early, preparation is key, so they tell us! It is really hard to imagine our babies growing up so quickly, it only seems like 5 minutes ago that we were buying their first school jumper ready for Nursery or Reception and yet here we are! Try as we might to keep them as our babies, the reality is, that very soon they will be moving to secondary school so rather than burying our heads in the sand and pretending it will never happen. Lets make some plans and ensure that this huge decision we are about to make, is the right one for the next 5 to 7 years of our child’s life!