Sunday, 18 March 2018
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Christmas & New Year 2014

The Move To Big School

Clare Rimmer, Director, On Target Tuition, (formally Kip McGrath) offers some good advice to parents on helping their child cope with making the move to big school.

My first day at ‘Big School’ is still engrained in my memory. It is such a milestone in a young person’s life and probably one of the most nerve racking experiences that they will have had to date. Will I make friends? What if I can’t find my way around? Will the work be too hard? Are the teachers going to be strict and how will I cope with all the homework? These are just some of the many questions that your child may worry about in the run up to the transition to secondary or grammar education. Reassure them that they are not alone in their worries and that their new teachers will be doing everything they can to make sure they settle in and enjoy their first weeks.

Making friends
Your child will probably know some children from their primary school or clubs that they have attended but there is no guarantee that they will end up in a form class with their best friend. It is probably a good idea to prepare them for this and reassure them that everyone is in the same boat and will be just as nervous and worried about making new friends as they are. Advise them not to be afraid to say hi to people to break the ice and remember that the teachers are on your side and want to help you settle in and feel comfortable.

Getting to school on time
Often the move to Year 8 means a longer journey for your child and very often being at a bus stop in good time to make sure they are in their form room for the start of roll call. Homework for different subjects and kit for extra-curricular activities means there is also a lot more to try and remember in the morning. Encourage your child to be super-organised the night before. Time keeping is something they should be given more control of at this age. Reinforce the fact that if they are late for school because they were not ready on time, may mean consequences that they did not have to worry about in primary school.

The timetable
This is one of the biggest changes and if your child is not the most independent of children then it is probably one of the hardest things they need to get their head around. They are moving from a system of one classroom, with one classroom teacher, to one in which they have to navigate through a large school building and be in the right place at the right time. Prepare your child for this change by giving them more responsibility at home and encourage them to stand on their own two feet in situations that you may once have stepped in. Ask them to discuss their new timetable with you and talk you through their classes, teachers and classrooms. Make several copies of the timetable and put one in their coat pocket as well as one on the fridge so you can see what lessons they have each day and discuss them at breakfast. If they lose one of their timetables, they have no excuses for being late if they have another stashed somewhere safe!

Coping with homework
It is very likely that your child will experience a huge increase in the amount of homework they get. They will have multiple homeworks for multiple subjects with differing due dates. Organisation and routine is the key.
•Set aside a time after school when homework must be done each day.
•Make sure that your child keeps their homework diary up to date and knows when the various assignments are due.
•Discuss with your child how much time they think any longer projects might take and how they can split their time to make sure everything is completed.
Managing their time is probably not something that they will have had to worry about in primary school and is something that their new teachers will talk to them about. However, it is vital that you keep an eye on what they have to do and when they have to do it by during the first year. How long your child should be spending each night on their homework varies from school to school but a rough guide would be between 30 minutes and 90 minutes per evening, depending on the variety of assignments set. It is a big step up from what they have been used to!

Revising for exams
The end of year exams will also be a new and potentially scary experience for the Year 8 student. Most children will never have had to revise properly before as even if they sat the Transfer Test they will most likely have been taught for the test by their primary teacher or tutor. Secondary exams require them to learn from their own notes and text books and this means that they have to find a way to revise that works for them. Help your child with their revision in Year 8 until they find a method that they are comfortable with. Try experimenting with mind mapping, colour coded lists and bullet points. Ask your child questions after they study their notes or put post-it notes of key facts around the house. Whatever works for them, reinforce the fact that reading through your notes the night before the exam will probably not be enough!


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