Transition from Primary to Secondary School

K P Sheeja
Dec 24, 2020
Education Tips

There are a lot of changes that will happen in the course of your child’s school life. One of them is moving from primary to high school. This transition is filled with a volley of emotions ranging from excitement to anxiety for you both. High school is entirely different; new environment, new friends, new choices, and challenges. So how can you help them prepare for this day and make the transition easier for everyone involved?


Understanding educational transitions

Throughout your child’s school life, they will go through multiple transitions. For instance, when they begin daycare; move on into preschool; advance to different classes; transfer to another school; move from primary school to middle school to high school and finally when they graduate and advance to college or university. During all these transitions, your child must adjust to new environments, teachers, classmates, learn how things are done there, and make sense of the school routines and rules.


Other than adjusting to changes in their school environment, your child is also adapting to social, emotional, and physical changes. These additional adjustments can complicate the whole transition, and if you are not careful, it can negatively impact their learning. Since most of the kids moving from primary to high school are adolescents, there are a few aspects you must consider as you look for ways to help your child make this transition. These include:

● Intellectual aspects - Ask yourself, does the school cater to the intellectual needs of your adolescent child? Young adolescents pupils are curious, motivated to achieve when tested, and capable of critical and complex thinking. So does the school offer opportunities for students to be interested, challenge, and expand their thinking?

● Social aspects - Adolescent students have an excessive need to be part of a group; to be accepted by their peers as they find their place in the world. During this time, they are engrossed in forming and developing their identities on different levels. How does the school cater to the social needs of your kid? Are there programs catered to helping these adolescents make sense of everything by embracing diversity? 

● Physical aspects - As young, growing adults, adolescents mature at different rates. For instance, some begin puberty before others. Aside from that, they undergo rapid and irregular growth that can cause them to feel awkward. Does the school have enough facilities to help your child stay physically active as well as programs and support systems to help them understand the changes happening in their bodies? 

● Psychological and emotional aspects- Along with physical changes, your child will experience various psychological and emotional changes. As they transition into adolescence, they will be going through a lot of emotions such as unpredictable mood swings, feeling vulnerable and self-conscious. Is the faculty sensitive to the fragile nature of your child’s psychological and emotional state? How are they helping? 

● Moral aspects - As they gain a better understanding of the world, adolescents are idealistic and look for ways they can impact or change the world. Does the school offer opportunities for learners to participate in decision-making processes on matters that affect their school life?

Your child’s academic performance is tied to how well these aspects match the school, and the curriculum taught. Some of the factors affecting their successful transition could be as a result of regular adolescent changes. However, others might be environmental, in which case, it falls on the school to have programs and practices in place to identify and help students through these challenging times.


Why this transition matters

The transition from one schooling phase to another can sometimes be challenging. In secondary school, classes might be more significant. There will be subject-specific teachers, pupils are more independent meaning there’s a need for your child to have more effective organizational skills than in primary school, and the workload is more. As your child transitions, you want to ensure that their well being and learning are maintained. A bad transition can have both short-term and long-term effects. For instance, there’s a strong link between how difficult the transition was and the likelihood of a student dropping out. Similarly, low transitions have been found to adversely impact a learner’s well being and their achievement in the future.


Difficulty transitioning has been known to cause unsettled behaviour that can be attributed to disruptions to social connections both for teachers and students alike. These could be peer pressure resulting in bad habits such as skipping classes, decreased engagement and motivation to do well, smoking, and general misbehaviour; inappropriate class placements concerning a student’s learning style and needs reducing their confidence and coping ability. With how secondary schools are set up, there’s decreased one-on-one interaction between teachers and students, making it harder to develop personalized relationships between educators and students. 


Ways to help your child adjust to high school

 1. Visit the school before your child starts 

A big part of what makes the transition to high school difficult is all the new things your kid will have to get used to; the new school, classes, faces, teachers, rules, routines, etc. it can all be quite intimidating, on top of al that, your child has to settle in fast and resume learning. A preschool visit can help your child have an easier time settling in school. Attend open days and orientations so that you can get a feel of the school. This way, your child can get the lay of the land before starting school. As you take a walk through the school, your child has a chance to familiarize themselves with it and learn where things such as lockers, washrooms, dorms, and the administration office are. Most school brochures have a school map which you can use to help your kid get familiar with the school setting.


2. Encourage your kid to maintain their friendships as they make new ones

There’s a whole slew of things going on in the social lives of kids transitioning to high school. As adolescents, they are going through various personal changes that affect their social lives. Moving to a new school upsets this delicate social structure; however, soon after starting high school, you will notice their need to be more independent in selecting and managing their relationships. They will still heavily depend on you to facilitate this by helping them build new relationships and nurture old ones.


During the switch, your child will draw a lot of strength from existing friendships as they look for support and confidence there whether they move to the same high school or not. So please encourage them to maintain these friendships as they navigate high school life. Preschool visits and orientations are a great way to introduce your child to kids who will be schooling together with them. Remember, anxiety can build before school starts and having a familiar face when school starts can help ease some of it.

Read More: Strategy to help childrens with anxiety issue


3. Give them their independence

While in primary school, a lot of the schedules and routines were dictated by teachers or yourself; however, in high school schedules change every day. As grown adults, they will have to learn how to organize and manage their classes as well as be responsible for their homework and study schedules. A great way to help them prepare for this added responsibility is to offer your kid more chances to change up their schedules and be part of the planning phase. It will allow them to learn organizational skills and let you see how well they can manage themselves but still know you’re there to help. This attachment will let them know that you believe in their abilities to run themselves, but you are there in case they need any help. Praise often, and reward autonomy.


4. Homework and time management

Kids in primary are notoriously bad timekeepers. They rarely have to worry about it because there are adults there to tell them when to switch activities. However, high school is different. Along with gaining autonomy, your child will have to learn how to manage their time correctly. The high school has a more significant workload and more activities to engage in without proper time management skills. Your child will have a hard time maintaining their schedules, getting homework done, and meeting deadlines. Assignments are no longer given one at a time, they will have varying deadlines, and different teachers will not necessarily consider whether or not you have other assignments before giving their own. Help your child create a homework schedule that will help them keep track of what’s due when. If your kid doesn’t wear a watch, this is a great time to start. Having one will help them say on track and adequately manage their time.


Remember, this transition will be hard on both of you. Change is tiring; however, with the proper support systems in place, you can make it less complicated. All of these things show how important it is for your child to adjust to life in secondary school. The skills you impart to them now will help them whenever they face a difficult transition in life. A successful transition relies on the cooperation of all stakeholders, from the faculty to both learners and parents. This information will help you deal with any issues that might come up during the change and help make it easier on both of you.

K P Sheeja

Is the Academic Supervisor for CBSE at the GIIS SMART Campus. One of the pioneer generation of teachers with GIIS, she comes from a family of educators and has been teaching English to students for the past 25 years. She believes her job as a teacher also includes mentoring and being a friend to her students.

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