Moving to a new school for any child can be daunting
Imagine one where you struggle with speaking and understanding language. Earlier this year we launched, Speaking Up for the Covid Generation, which highlighted that 1.5 million children struggling to speak and to understand what other people say to them.
The report also found that 63% of primary teachers and 62% of secondary teachers surveyed think that children moving to secondary school in September 2021 will struggle more with their speaking and understanding than those who moved before the pandemic.
Below are our top tips for parents to use to help you to prepare your child for their new school, it could be they are starting school for the first time, moving up to secondary school or just changing schools.
Nursery to reception
- Practise being at “big school” through role-play with your child. Take turns pretending to be the teacher and the student or act out roles with toy figurines. Rehearsing situations that might happen in a fun and safe environment, talking through things together will help teach your child valuable skills like asking for help or asking friends to play at break time. Try not to ask too many questions as this can be overwhelming for children – instead make comments during play and see if your child responds.
- Share books with your child about going to school. Books provide another opportunity to talk with your child about this change and to address any worries or concerns they might have. Pause between sentences and speak slowly to give your child time to process what you say.
- Familiarise your child with their new school before their first day – you could walk down the street together and look at the school, or even print out some pictures from the school website. Using a visual cue helps support children’s understanding as they prepare for change.
- If you know other children who will be attending your child’s new school, consider setting up some play dates with them over the summer holidays.
- If your child has any additional needs or you have concerns about their speaking or understanding, share this information with key staff at their new school so they can put the right support in place.
Primary to secondary
- Talk to your child frequently about their new school in the lead up to their first day. Focus on things that your child can look forward to, but also encourage them to share any worries they have. By talking to them about these you can work out strategies together so that they are more prepared for when they start. Pause often between your sentences and speak slowly to give your child a chance to process what you’ve said.
- Getting as much information as possible and reducing the number of unknown elements will help your child to feel more prepared for this change. Explore the school website with your child – look up the school map, photos of staff members and any extra-curricular activities on offer that they might be interested in. Using a visual cue will help to support your child’s understanding as you talk about their new school.
- Help to familiarise your child with new vocabulary that they are likely to encounter at secondary school – words such as “head of year”, “form tutor”, “homework planner” and “pastoral care” will be commonly used but your child probably won’t be familiar with them.
- Why not walk or travel the route to school with your child a few days before their new term begins? This will help familiarise your child with their new surroundings and is the perfect opportunity to chat about their new school and address any worries or concerns your child might have. Try not to ask too many questions as this can be overwhelming for children – instead make comments or “I wonder…” statements about their new school and see if they respond.
Moving to a new school
- Explore the school website together with your child to familiarise them with what the school looks like and who key staff members are. Using a visual cue will help support your child’s understanding as you talk.
- Use your child’s interests to get them excited about opportunities in their new school – what sports are available, do they have a chess club or another games club, are there opportunities to get involved in drama or music?
- Share books with your child about moving schools. Talk about the story together – this provides an opportunity to address any questions, worries or concerns your child has about their move. Pause between sentences and speak slowly to give your child a chance to process what you say.
- If your child does have any additional needs, ensure the new setting know about these. A communication passport can be a helpful way of summarising all the important information about your child in one simple document that new staff can have access to.