Moving from primary to secondary school

Moving from a primary school to secondary school can be an exciting and anxious experience for your child and your family.

To help you prepare for the move, we have spoken to SENCOs, teachers and other parents to share their experiences and top tips to get ready for the new school term.

Talking about their emotions

  • Talk positively about the move, discuss the things that will be the same or the things that will be different.
  • Encourage your child to share any anxieties they may have about the move so you can address these at the earliest possible opportunity.
  • Look out for any change of emotions including:
    • lowered self-esteem
    • increased anxiety, sadness or irritability
    • acting out or being short-tempered
    • physical symptoms like headaches or stomach aches
    • being unable to fall or stay asleep
    • experiencing muscle tension
    • reduced motivation in carrying out usual activities.
  • Keep in touch over the summer with any children you know who will be in your child's class, and arrange a couple of playdates if possible. This will build up friendships for the new term.
  • Talk about problem-solving, for example, what to do if we are hurt, worried or unhappy. Stress to your child the importance of never being afraid to ask for help or to let an adult know if something has happened that has made them unhappy.
  • Practice saying goodbye and being away from you.

For mental health support visit the NHS mental wellbeing information hub.

Getting familiar with the school

  • Ask for a map of the school to check where different rooms will be, like their form room or science labs.
  • Look at the school prospectus or website together to help become familiar with the new school.
  • Attend any events the new school might be hosting, such as a summer fayre, to help to get know the school.
  • Ask if your child can meet their new teacher and/or SENCO before September. This helps build a new relationship and recognition of a new environment.
  • If your child will be having a hot lunch, show them a menu from the school website to give them an idea of what to expect and teach them to use cutlery. If they’re having packed lunch, make sure they can open packets and unwrap their food without help – go for picnics to practise!

A few weeks before the new term

  • Have a special trip out to buy the uniform and other things your child will need, such as a water bottle, shoes or a school bag. Let them be involved!
  • Start your school morning routine a few weeks before the new term. Allow them to get used to getting up, dressed, fed and washed before the time you want to leave.
  • Let them try on their new school uniform to help them feel comfortable in their new clothes a few weeks before September. They may experience sensitivity to some fabrics or fastenings.
  • Ensure their name tags are in a block script, not cursive.
  • Find out if there is a quieter school entrance you can visit if your child has sensory processing difficulties.
  • Practice the school run to help your child learn:
    • how they're getting to school
    • what roads they will see
    • the different sights and sounds.
  • Create a scrapbook with your child, include drawings of:
    • the school, entrance and classroom
    • times of the day
    • their uniform
    • their journey to school
    • lunch hall and key staff (who to go to when they need to speak to someone).

  • Check arrangements are in place so information about your child’s needs and the extra help that has been in place are shared.
  • Find out if your child can take part in any transition activities the school might be running.
  • Make sure areas of progress and successes and any special interests and skills your child has are highlighted.
  • Draw up a simple profile with your primary school for your new school to be shared with staff to support a shared understanding of needs and provide continuity of approach, it could include:
    • areas of strength and personal interests
    • things that might cause them anxiety and stress and the impact of this on behaviour
    • strategies that help soothe and calm
    • how they like to be helped - what has worked well and how can this be replicated in a different school
    • how they communicate - verbally and non-verbally, for example visible signs of stress and anxiety.

With the help of Kent PACT and IASK we have put together some helpful questions to ask how your child's new school will best support them.

The questions will provide you with support surrounding your child's:

  • health
  • education
  • accessibility
  • school progress
  • transportation.

Read our helpful questions.

In year 5 your child's school will hold a phase transfer review (which is also the annual review) of your child’s educational, health and care (EHC) plan. The aim of this review is to discuss future placements, as well as to review the EHC plan.

As part of the annual review paperwork it is important that you include your request for the next school or provision. When this is submitted to us we will consult your preferred school or provision and potentially other schools or provisions that may be able to meet your child’s needs.

Find out more about the phase transfer review meeting and process.

If you are unhappy about the school named on your EHC plan

If you would like to discuss the school that is named on the EHC plan then you can discuss with the SENCO at the setting in the first instance or you can also speak to IASK.

If you disagree with the setting or provision we have named you can appeal to the SEN and Disability Tribunal.

Don't forget to look after yourself too. The first couple of weeks before and after the start of the new term can be stressful for some, so make sure you:

  • don’t forget about your own sleep routine
  • support your mental health by exercising and making time for whatever it is that makes you happy
  • try and sort out after school child care in advance of term to save you stress during school time
  • carve out a child-free hour or two some evenings when the children are in bed.

For mental health support visit the NHS mental wellbeing information hub.

Settling into school can take a few weeks, but you know your child best so don’t hesitate to speak to your school if you have any concerns, as they are there to help you.

Your child may:

  • feel more anxious and may tell you they have stomach-ache or a headache to avoid school. It can be helpful to speak them to see if anything is worrying them. If you can’t get to the bottom of the problem though, please tell your school so they can talk to them.
  • be more tearful and clingy for the first few days, which is quite normal.
  • be more exhausted at the end of the day - let them have some quiet time or even a nap when they get home. If they’re hungry, a healthy snack and drink can help restore energy levels.

It's a good idea to keep the first few weekends into a new term free, as they will likely need to recharge their batteries. Once they've started to get used to the structure of the school week, you can arrange days out and activities as a family.

We are here to answer any queries or questions you might have about your child starting a new school. For support you can contact: