Tuesday 6 December 2016

High school heebie-jeebies: The transition from primary to secondary school

The transition from primary to secondary school can be a stressful time for both parents and children, with a totally new environment and peer group to get used to. Here, secondary-school teacher and author Claire Redmond offers some tips on how to cope

Claire Redmond

Published 08/09/2010 | 14:56

MOVING FROM PRIMARY TO SECONDARY SCHOOL IT'S the first day of secondary school, and suddenly you observe sweaty palms, a bursting headache, downright terror – and that's just you the parent!

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As for your budding student, you inspect them as if they were part of a military line-up, nervously checking hemlines and flicking away imaginary bits of fl uff from their jumper. Will he be sent home because of his spiky hairstyle that he has spent an hour on this morning? Will she get in trouble for wearing too much jewellery?

Your child's transition from primary to secondary school affects the whole family. This is an exhilarating yet also frightening and frustrating time for children and parents as they try to second-guess what is the right thing to do.

Some children will have gone through primary school with the same students in their class from junior infants to sixth class. The idea of making new friends in secondary school can be quite scary.

Primary schools are highly structured environments where children do the same thing at the same time on the same days. In contrast, secondary schools usually run according to a varied schedule that requires children to move from class to class, change teachers and adjust to different groups of classmates up to nine times a day.

Secondary school students span over vast age ranges and levels of maturity, so not every child will be ready for the greater independence thrust upon them immediately.

Teenagers are witty, clever and at times wise beyond their years. They become adults almost too soon for their irritated hormones. In the homes of many teenagers battles have been lost, won and deadlocked over the issue of school. What do students understand by stress in school and, furthermore, what can parents and teachers do about it?

The following are the areas most likely to worry the young teenager as they struggle to find their place in secondary school.

Seating arrangements

Who will they be put seated next to? Will they have to scramble for a seat in a free-seating arrangement? And what happens if they don't like their seating companion and have to spend the next year sitting beside them? These can all be issues that cause concern for children at the start of secondary school.

Group work and class interaction

For even the most extroverted students, this can be diffi cult. Speaking aloud in front of their peers is another horror – imagine your own sense of terror if you had to do it!

In today's age of online social networks, meeting and chatting face to face with potential new friends has become rare. The skill of communication and interaction is not an inbuilt part of the teenager's DNA and cannot be taken for granted in the classroom.

Fear of the teacher

Sometimes teachers may not be aware that their actions are causing genuine distress to the student. In their efforts to maintain order and effectively manage the classroom, teachers may terrify students. In primary school, parents know the system and how to go about arranging a meeting with their child's teacher. Luckily, there is also a system for contacting teachers in secondary school and parents do not have to wait until formal parent-teacher meetings.

Tests/ exams

Junior or Leaving Cert exams may not be an immediate worry for students; however, throughout the year, your young teenager may still have to spend a lot of time on certain subjects for class tests and exams. The teenager is now faced with time management and planning skills that adults would have diffi culty with, which can be extremely daunting.

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