Our Tips For Secondary School – Sun 12th July 2015

By | July 12, 2015

Ooh, the end of term is looming! The end of T’s first year in secondary school.  It’s gone by incredibly quickly and we are extremely proud of how he’s adapted and coped with immense change.

This time last year, I was relieved that we’d been successful in our appeal to get him a place in our first choice school, but also very nervous about it all:

 Would he master his tie and accept the fact he’d have to wear it every day? 

Having an invisible disability can have its drawbacks, on the one hand it’s a relief that it isn’t immediately obvious but, as T tends to mask his emotions, it can mean that in a school environment, people assume he’s okay, when inside he’s anything but.

T’s straight-forward and direct way of talking can mean that he can seem offhand or rude, this isn’t the case, he’s just not skilled in either reading emotions or knowing what a conversation has come to a natural end.  This particularly concerned me bearing in mind that he’d be travelling to school by school bus, what if he indirectly offended an older child – by either seeming to ignore them or producing one of his glares – would there be repercussions?

And, bearing in mind he was the only one from his primary school, would he make friends?

Fortunately, the majority of my fears were unfounded, he copes with the day, occasionally we get a “flare up” on the walk home (D and I wait for his school bus) and D will bear the brunt of a bit of pent-up sarcasm and sniping, but we’re close to the end of term …. hooray!

I wanted to share some tips we’ve used throughout the year, they may help anyone facing a long six weeks of wondering how year 7 will go.

1.  There is bound to be a stricter uniform code, with a tie, jumper or blazer being required to be worn throughout the day.  On T’s first day, it was 23degrees and he went in thinking he wouldn’t need a jumper, only to be told that is was compulsory and he faced dentention if it wasn’t worn the next day.  So, be prepared (as this wasn’t mentioned in any papers).

Practice the tie-tying.  Even if you’re happy to do the tie first thing, there’ll still be times during the day (eg after PE) when they’ll need to re-tie it.  We made it into a little game throughout the holidays, which appealed to T’s competitive spirit, sometimes he’d be faster than Hubbie, sometimes it was very close.

2.  If you can, go to the school site during the holidays, so that your child can re-familiarise themselves with where Reception is, where the car park/bus stop/main gate is, it definitely helps doing this when its quieter.  We also went along the route the school bus would take, pointing out little landmarks he could see and recognise that he’s nearly at school/nearly back in our village (some were daft things like a field of cows or a funny-named farm but it all helped).

3.  School books – my goodness there will be loads!  Stock up with sticky-backed plastic to cover their exercise books as they will get a bit battered, we put symbols relating to the subject on too, as this made identifying the books easier.

Keep the school books on a specific shelf/crate, similarly with PE kit.  It makes getting prepared easier.

Label everything!  Shoes, calculator, pencil case … everything!  If something is found, it won’t be traced back by the label, it will get lumped into lost property/student services.  Not ideal but secondary school has a heck more pupils than primary.

4.  Get to know the SENco.  An introductory email doesn’t hurt and sometimes they’re not immediately aware of any additional needs.  When we first met with T’s tutor, she had no idea of his diagnosis (which seemed poor at the time) so it helps that you know that they do.  This also opens up a communication line if there are any issues.

Similarly, your child’s tutor can also be contacted by email, as well as subject teachers.

5.  The school bag.  Forget all these messenger-type bags, they are going to have a lot to carry around.  A decent backpack will ease the weight on their shoulders and should last a while too. T started with a messenger bag but very quickly moved to a Hype backpack, lots of colourful and quite funky designs and they last too.

It helps to pack the school bag the night before and include things like calculator, maths instruments for each appropriate lesson, detentions can be dolled out for (what seems like) minor things and it can all seem a bit demoralising.

6.  Much of the homework and letters could be on an online system, so ensure that you and your child have access.  Some schools operate an online cashless canteen system, which is great security-wise and sometimes you can see exactly what they’re spending your money on!

Get into a routine with homework, either time spent day-by-day or a longer time over the weekend, whichever is preferable, but pre-warn your child that homework will no doubt increase in year 8 and beyond.

7.  The planner.  Most schools operate a week 1/week 2 schedule, which can seem daunting, have a print out of the schedule on a notice board and it helps if it’s double-sided so that there’s only the current week on show.  The planner usually needs signing by a parent every week (dentention if not signed!) so get that into the routine.

But most of all, reassure your child that everyone, no matter how confident and “big” they seem, were a apprehensive and worried year 7 once.  People are there to help, your child only has to ask.  

And our day today? D wished the weekend was “ten weeks long”, doesn’t that sound nice?


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