This post is through the eyes of a child and I am providing no answers. They are all situations that I have encountered through comprehensive research with children in both primary or secondary settings. I have changed some of the language, and added a Covid spin on a few, but the issues are real!
Hopefully the questions are enough to spark debate in leadership meetings:
- My primary school know what my home life is like because I trust them and feel safe to talk to them. How will you help me to feel comfortable enough to do the same at secondary school?
- Will I need to provide my own pens and pencils? I don’t have any at home, and I don’t want to have to ask my parents for the money to buy some as I know we don’t have much spare.
- I think I will need to get the bus to school but I don’t know how to, I have never been on a bus before. What if I get lost or I am late?
- I don’t know where I will be living in September. I am worried about how I will get to school each day. Who do I need to talk to about this? How do I know I can trust that person?
- I will need to get the bus to school most days but I won’t be able to afford it everyday. What will happen if I am late?
- The trousers I wear now won’t fit me in September. My parents have not been able to work since March so we can only afford part of the uniform I need. What should we buy first?
- My primary school keep a spare PE kit for me in class but they help me pretend that it is mine because they know I am embarrassed about not being able to afford one. I am worried about what to do in PE when I get to secondary school.
- I haven’t been able to do much work at home because I have no one to help me and no access to the internet to search for answers. Will I miss out when I start year 7?
- I am really scared about moving to secondary school. I don’t have anyone at home that understands and none of my friends seem to feel the same. I am too embarrassed to tell a stranger, how can you help me?
- I work hard in school but I never do any work at home because I have little a little brother I have to care for. I don’t know if that will ever change and I can’t get to school early or stay late. Will I get in trouble or will I miss out on anything?
- How will I know how much the food in the canteen costs? I am worried I will spend more than I have and that will be embarrassing.
- When will I be able to spend my money if I am Free School Meals? I won’t have breakfast at home, will I have to wait until lunch time to be able to eat?
- Will I have to write about what I did during the holidays? I don’t want to tell anyone that I didn’t do anything!
- I have a medical condition but I don’t want any children to know about it. How will school support me?
- I have never been on a school trip, I know my family can’t afford it so I make sure that I am not allowed to go by getting into trouble and so I don’t have to ask them. Will you help me break that cycle?
- My house is so cold in the winter that I get very poorly. Will I get in lots of trouble if I have a lot of time off?
- Will I have to bring my own ingredients/resources for any subjects? I know my family won’t be able to afford them but I am embarrassed by that and don’t want the new children in my classes to know I am poor.
- My big sister said that when she started secondary school she had to do some tests. I know my friends have been doing lots of extra work at home but I haven’t. I am worried that I won’t look as clever as the other children in my class. What should I do?
- I have never been to an ‘out of school club’, will that hold me back? Will I be allowed to join them at secondary school or will I need special kit?
- My parents did not enjoy secondary school and they have told me it will be horrible. Is that true?
- What if I don’t understand my homework? I have no one at home who can help and I won’t know how to find the teachers who set it. I always know where my year 6 teacher is. That will be different at secondary school.
- People pick on me now because my clothes are always dirty. I loose my temper when children are mean to me and sometimes I lash out. I get in trouble but my teacher knows the whole situation. I am scared that this will get worse when I get to secondary school and I have heard that I will get in trouble. Is that true? Will anyone hear my side of the story?
- I just don’t like school, I am so busy at home that I don’t feel like I have time. I will do my best to get sent home!
I know the last one wasn’t a question but it is something I have heard from children in the past and thought it was a poignant comment to end on. I wonder how many of us have met this child over the years, without realising their motivation for poor behaviour. I could go on with several more FAQ’s and I am sure, in hindsight, we all know a pupil who will have been in one or more of these situations.
I have written this through the eyes of a child to be their advocate. Of course, we all know that the vast majority of disadvantaged children that we work with might not want to admit or acknowledge their disadvantage. As the adults in their lives it is our responsibility to help and support them to reach their potential despite the circumstances that surround. I hope this post has provided some discussion points.