Updated: Jul 21
Change is a normal and sometimes necessary part of life. It can provide new opportunities for children to develop their emotional awareness & build resilience.
However, the transition period of moving from primary to secondary school needs to be carefully managed carefully & sensitively to avoid having a negative impact on their well being and academic achievement.
During any transition period, it’s important that children can talk about their concerns and are supported to cope with any adjustments.
Preparing to move to secondary school can be a distressing & scary time for any child. It can affect sleep patterns, cognitive functioning, behaviour, emotional well-being & cause physical issues such as head & stomach aches.
I remember when I moved from the comfort & safety of my small village primary school to a huge secondary school. I felt terrified, especially because I moved alone & without my friends. The change was brutal & I didn’t know how to cope with the loneliness & fear I felt. The first day I walked the corridors in a daze & completely alone. No one approached me & I had to hide in the toilets several times each day so my tears would not be seen. Each morning I would wake up to the feeling of dread & would long for it to be he end of the day again.
Who is more likely to struggle with transitions?
It’s important to prepare all children with the transition, but in particular for vulnerable children who are more likely to struggle with moving to a new school, these include children with:
Special educational needs and disability (SEND)
Mentally health problems
Limited parental support
Experience of transient living, such as being in care
Experience of being bullied.
Children who don’t feel that they belong in their school; who struggle to develop good relationships with school staff and peers; and who struggle with changes to a routine may also find this transition challenging.
How to spot if a child is struggling
If children struggle with moving to a new school, they are at an increased risk of poorer attendance, lower grades, feeling disengaged with school, and having reduced confidence and self-esteem. It may also increase their chances of developing symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Here are a few things to look out for which may suggest a child is struggling with their transition:
Struggles to make friends
Spends long periods of time alone
Doesn’t feel that they belong
Has ongoing difficulties coping with daily routines
Increased number of unauthorised school absences
Challenging or disruptive behaviour
Lower than expected grades or a disinterest in school.
Two in five pupils fail to reach expected academic progress after transitioning to secondary school