|Transition from Primary School to Secondary School|
Big fish to small fish
The biggest change when entering the secondary school system is probably the constant change in the day-to-day routine. In primary school, they had one teacher all day in the one classroom. In Secondary school however, that routine changes utterly. There is a subject change every forty minutes approximately, and with this subject change there is a change of teacher. It is not unusual for a student to encounter eight or nine different teachers during a typical school day. A tip to help your child cope with this is to advise them to write down the name of each new teacher beside the name of the subject.
Some subject changes will involve a change of classroom too and the second big change that the new 1st years have to cope with is the constant movement between classrooms throughout the day. Depending on their subject choices, students will be moving all around the school. Getting lost during the first few weeks will be inevitable for some. A good tip is to advise your child to always stay with at least one other person from the class...there is definitely safety and confidence in numbers!
All of this ‘new-ness’ is bound to have some effect on the student and in these early days of adjusting, parents should try to be supportive, understanding and encouraging, ensuring their child eats well and gets plenty of rest and ‘down time’.
Another big adjustment is the number of specific subjects your child is covering. Depending on the school and the subject-choice structure, students in 1st year can cover anything up to 15 different subjects (some will only be by way of introduction, to help students to select the subjects they wish to take for the Junior Cert.). Many of these are new and unfamiliar. An example of a typical timetable is included here, to give you an idea of what a typical day might look like.
Sample first year timetable
Their timetable will take a lot of getting used to. Part of this new routine will involve the organisation of the schoolbag before each day. It’s a new skill that some may struggle with and a little help in the early days will ensure they have the right books, and the right homework on the right day!
Homework time is obviously going to increase and with it comes several new adjustments to be dealt with from the Primary School homework routine. Not all subjects are covered every day and not all subjects involve homework. This may mean that your child has two hours homework on one night and maybe one hour the next night. One of the best skills you can help your child to learn is that of effective time management. Help your child to even out their homework pattern by encouraging them to develop a homework timetable.
Certain subjects get homework nightly (Maths), others on every other day, others still on a weekly basis (Irish essay). Help them to devise a method to spread out the workload over the 5 nights of the week. Don’t under-estimate the importance of getting a structure and a sense of organisation at an early stage of their secondary school lives. Learning how to successfully manage their time is an invaluable life skill and will make the transition into their new environment a whole lot easier.
As stated, most children take the transition from Primary School to Secondary school in their stride. Schools have generally recognised the potential difficulties and have a good support network in place for 1st years. Most schools operate the system of the ‘year head’ (a teacher who has specific responsibility for the entire year). Many schools also appoint class ‘tutors’, ‘mentors’ and 6th Year ‘buddies’ or ‘prefects’ who have the task of making the introduction to the school as pleasant and as painless as possible.
As parents, we can often feel a little helpless – our role is to be supportive, interested and encouraging. If you have any concerns about your child, the advice is to make contact with the school.
Finally, with all the ups and downs of the first few weeks, rest assured that by the time Sept 1st comes round again the following year, your child will enter the establishment as if they’ve been there forever. They will laugh at the new 1st years for getting lost, again, and will boss them around with all the authority that only a 2nd year student can assume.
Source: The Essential Parents’ Guide to the Secondary School Years by Brian Gilsenan, published by Primary ABC,