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Changing schools

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Whether a child is making the transition from primary to secondary school or starting a new school because the family has moved to a different area, she or he is likely to need extra support from parents and other family members at first. How a child copes with change can very much depend on the kind of support she or he receives. 

Helping a child settle in to a new school 

“I felt awful, we moved and she had to change schools half way through the school year but the school was really helpful in helping her to settle in.” 

Parents and other family members, or friends, play a key part in helping the child to be organised and in giving reassurance if it is needed. It’s normal for children to feel a mixture of excitement and anxiety before starting a new school, and most will settle down quite happily. However, allow time for this to happen and be prepared for a few ‘teething troubles’. Some things that can help include: 

  • Involving your child in the decision over which school she or he attends. 
  • Visiting the school with your child to meet teachers beforehand even if you already have children at the school. Many secondary schools arrange ‘taster days’ for new pupils. 
  • Finding out which teacher to contact, when and how, in case you have any questions or problems. 
  • Giving advance notice of any particular needs of the child so that teachers can be ready with any support that is needed. 
  • Looking through the school prospectus together, to check rules and regulations, and what is required in the way of school uniform. 

It is also important that you, as a parent, remain calm and cheerful. If you’re feeling anxious, your child’s anxiety may be increased too.  It is natural to feel nervous, but it is important to keep things in perspective, especially if the anxiety is triggered by your own unhappy memories of school. Schools do much more nowadays to help children feel welcome.

Try to acknowledge any feelings of nervousness your child may have.  Try saying, ‘it’s only natural to feel nervous’ rather than ‘don’t be silly, there’s nothing to worry about’.  Talk with your child beforehand and discuss any worries they may have.  You could also think about who to ask for information or advice if needed, e.g. ‘what happens if I get lost?’. 


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