Starting high school can be a daunting prospect for students – one of their first and most concrete steps into adulthood and independence.
Our experts say there are lots of ways you can help ease transition nerves, including participating in all the school offers during the transition, making sure children feel comfortable, encouraging friendships between older and younger students and watching out for signs that things aren’t progressing as expected.
Choose the right school
If your family is selecting from a number of schools, consider the individual benefits each could offer your child. Ask about programs that suit their interests, be honest about their learning needs, and consider whether a co-educational or single-sex environment would suit them best.
Sydney Catholic Schools Assistant Director of Teaching and Learning Iris Nastasi further recommends that you ask your child to assist you in age-appropriate ways. Bring them with you to open days and school interviews, and invite them to ask their own questions.
“Try to include young people in decisions that affect their lives, if they feel very strongly about something, that could impact their relationship with school in the future,” Ms Nastasi said.
Explore the environment
Encouraging students to explore the campus of their future secondary school as much as possible while they’re still in primary school ensures it feels familiar when they arrive on their first day.
“Because students enrol in high school in Year 5, a gap can emerge between a child and their new school,” Ms Nastasi said. “Keeping them connected to the school even after enrolment ensures they can anticipate and can be excited about the change that’s coming, and getting Year 6 students physically into the school makes it all suddenly less intimidating.”
Ensure your child attends any orientation events or open days that run in the year prior to their start date at secondary school, and connect them digitally through the school’s website and social media so they feel as familiar as possible with the campus, the uniform, students and staff.
Set (peer) support in place
Sydney Catholic schools often run programs that link students at local primary and secondary schools through science, arts, technology or extension activities. If your child is asked to participate, it’s a great way for them to spend time in their future high school and meet older students.
Once school begins for the year, most colleges will run peer support groups, which invite older children to show younger students the ropes and bring groups of new Year 7s together who may not otherwise know each other.
“It’s all about connection and relationship, connecting with the older students and meeting their new teachers.” said Ms Nastasi. “As they mature the older students often become the best advocates for the younger ones.”
Watch for the signs
Once your child has started high school, it can sometimes be tough to discern the difference between normal teenage evasiveness and signs that they may be having a difficult time adjusting.
“You have to allow them a few weeks to make the necessary adjustments to their routines and relationships.” Ms Nastasi said, “some students take longer than others but if your child becomes withdrawn or behaviour changes dramatically, you should contact the school about your concerns.”
Parents should see their child using their school diary or other organisational methods to track work and assessment tasks. As the year progresses they should notice their child building friendships, and exhibiting a growing sense of pride about being part of a new school community.
Sydney Catholic Schools is committed to ensuring high school students are supported to become passionate leaders, thinkers and creators.
Our dynamic, expert staff would love to welcome your child into Year 7 next year – enrol or enquire now.