Top tips to help when your child changes schools

9 mins read

This advice applies across the UK.

These tried and tested tips were prepared by a special educational needs teacher and a group of parents to help parents and children navigate changes of school, for example from nursery to primary, or junior to secondary, or if you move and have to start school in another area.

In this article

Talking to the school

Preparing your child

Getting organised

To think about for secondary school

Here are some tips covering the main areas of secondary school life.

Travelling to school by bus

If travelling independently, your child needs to know:

Children will also need help in coping with the social situations that often occur on the bus journey, such as noise, teasing and so on. It would be helpful for your child to travel with someone they know for the first few days. A trial bus run before school starts would also be helpful – speak to the school about this.

The geography of the school

Give your child a map with as much detail as possible, using room numbers with descriptions. Help them learn various ‘landmarks’, which you can use to describe locations. For example, room A13 is the room for English lessons at the top of the stairs near the library.

It is worth spending time navigating the school and learning the important places: tutor room, library, toilets etc. Some schools have a ‘buddy’ system and the buddy could help with this.

Following a timetable

This is one of the most complicated parts of school life to adjust to, especially if the school uses a two-week timetable. In primary school your child is taught by one teacher and usually in the same classroom. However, at secondary school there are numerous teachers and learning locations.

To simplify the timetable, try using:

Make sure you have a copy of the timetable prominently displayed at home.

Using lockers

Your child needs to:

School diaries

In the homework diary it is useful to attach a clearly defined map of the school and a timetable.

Simple and clear instructions, for example, ‘what to do if I lose my dinner money’ can help to eliminate stress. If your child becomes very upset when it rains at break time, a few simple instructions entered in the diary will help school staff to assist them.

Ask the school to use the diary to warn you and your child of upcoming dates or changes to the schedule. Then you can discuss any worries with the school.

When possible, the learning support assistant should be responsible for checking that homework information has been correctly entered. School staff should also make a note in the pupil’s diary if a letter is given to the child to take home.

Added responsibility

At secondary school, your child has complete responsibility for their pencil case, books, equipment, PE kit, cookery items, and so on. Using checklists can be very useful. Laminated cards, for example detailing uniform, could be used. Checklist/s could be written in the homework diary.

Some children cannot manage to organise lockers/books/equipment at school, and end up without equipment and books in lessons, or just carrying around huge numbers of books. Where this is a problem, the books can be kept in a box at home and you can ask the school to help your child to sort out what is needed for the next day’s school each evening.

Procedures for break and lunchtimes

Your child needs to know:

Where they can go to for help

Break times and lunchtimes (before or after eating) can be a problem because of the lack of structure, the noise and the movement. Many pupils benefit from access to a quiet ‘refuge’. Find out where they can go and who to go to for help. Make sure they know how to ask for help if they’re feeling anxious. Bullying can also be a problem. All schools have an anti bullying policy.