Tuesday 25 June 2019

Dear David Coleman: 'My son wants to change school after four months!'

Primary school friendships are a key consideration in the choice of secondary school
Primary school friendships are a key consideration in the choice of secondary school
David Coleman

David Coleman

Question: We moved my son (aged 13) from his old primary school to a new one, after third class, because the new one was a feeder school for the secondary school we wanted him to go to. He started there in September. Already, though, he wants to move secondary school to be with his old friends from his original primary school, who he is still really close to. I think he feels cheated because we didn't involve him in making the decision about moving him when he was 10 years old. We hear him about missing his old friends, but we feel that moving him again to another school is just too disruptive. What should we do?

David replies: I think you need to listen carefully to what your son is saying. He seems very clear that his strongest friendships remain with the friends he made in his first primary school up to the age of 10. He has maintained those friendships, even though he was in a different primary school from then on. Those friendships are really important to him.

I can see why he might feel cheated, since, at age 10, he wasn't consulted on the decision to move his school. I am sure you made that decision about schools, on his behalf, in good faith. You, no doubt, looked ahead to potential secondary schools, identified the one that you felt would be best for him, and then moved him to a primary school that would be a feeder for the secondary school.

A key part of moving his primary school was probably to allow him the chance to make new friendships with others that were destined to go to that secondary school with him. While he may have made some friends in his new primary school, they don't seem to be sustaining him in his current secondary school.

Instead, those friendships from his first primary school have endured and they do appear to sustain him. He seems to be telling you, very clearly, that having those friendships in school, as well as outside school, are very important to him.

I am not sure what differences there are between the two secondary schools. I'd imagine you feel that the one you chose has advantages over the one he now wants to move to. You may feel quite settled about the choice you made for him, confident in your belief that his current school is better. This may be blocking your willingness to reconsider that choice.

However, how significant are those advantages, and do they trump his perception of the social advantage of being in the other school? He may find it harder to focus on the academic side of his current school if he is distracted, in a negative way, by the social side of it.

Ultimately, I am sure that your goal, for your son, is that he has a positive experience of school, such that he can avail of a good education to create opportunities for himself in the future. If so, then being with close friends may prove to be more useful and advantageous for him than being in a school where he doesn't feel happy.

I am not sure that moving schools will be any more disruptive now than it may have been when you made the decision back when he was 10. Indeed, at that time, he not only had to adjust to a new school, he also had to make new friends.

Should he change school now, he has a ready-made group of friends, and he just needs to accommodate to the structures and rules of the new school.

As long as you can be satisfied that the new school he wants to attend meets your standards for a good-quality education that can deliver on future opportunities, then I think you can listen openly to his reasoning - and perhaps give him the choice that he feels he was denied previously.

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