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Starting secondary school is a major moment in any child’s life. It’s a time filled with mixed emotions – excitement and anxiety. They’ll be going from being one of the biggest in a smaller primary school to one of the smallest in a bigger secondary school. And the structure of their days will be different. So it’s okay that they’ll be a bit nervous. You’ll probably be nervous too! But there are things you can do to help make the move easier for them.

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In this short video, teacher Chris Smith has lots of great practical advice for going back to school, including how to manage that tricky transition from P7 to S1.

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What if my child is nervous about starting secondary school?

Even the most confident P7 may be a wee bit worried about starting secondary school. There’s no point pretending that primary and secondary schools aren’t different. But there’s no need for them to be scared. There are plenty of practical things you can do to help smooth the transition and ease any worries they have.

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What will schools be doing to help new S1 pupils settle in?

Your child’s primary school and their new secondary school will have plans in place to help new children settle into S1, but these will differ from school to school. Their P7 teacher may show them pictures or videos tours of their new school, and given them other information to help them when they start. Some secondary schools may be inviting children to come in for a visit, while others may be using videos and online chats. Get in touch with your child’s school to find out what the options are. 

Once they start, your child will get lots of support from their pastoral support (guidance) teacher, their head of year, support for learning staff and other pupils. If your child has any questions, all of these people will be happy to help. If you have concerns, you should contact your child’s pastoral support (guidance) teacher.

When term begins in August, there will be a couple of weeks where children are introduced to new lessons and activities. 

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Tips for starting secondary school

Tip #1: Talk to them


Ask them how they feel about starting school. Let them know that you’re there to speak to them about anything that might be worrying them. Concerns about making new friends and bullying are all normal, and it’s important they know you’re there to chat anytime they want to. We have more advice about this in our section on raising a teen

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Tip #2: Go through the first day

Talk to them about what their first day will be like. Even being clear on what they’re going to wear and what route they’ll take in the morning will help settle their nerves a little – you could even do a practice run.

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Tip #3: Be positive

You may have your own worries about them starting secondary school. But it’s important that you try to stay positive. Ask them what they’re looking forward to, the subjects they think they’ll like, for example.

Secondary school has a lot of new opportunities that their primary school wouldn't have, which can be really exciting for them to look forward to. For example, they have lots of extra-curricular activities, before and after school and at lunch time. Encourage your child to get involved to help them make the most of their time to build skills and meet new people!

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Tip #4: Stick to your routine

Over the summer holidays it’s easy to slip into the habit of late nights and later starts in the morning! Getting into a good morning routine in the week leading up to starting school will help make the first few days easier.

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Tip #5: Be prepared

Help your child get everything they need to start. Their school will let you know what equipment is needed, like pens or calculators. Let them pick any new stationery or a new rucksack. This will help them feel a bit more confident on their first day. If you’re worried about money at the moment take a look at our tips for saving on school costs to find out about any support you might be eligible for.

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Tip #6: Be involved

Be interested in their new timetable, who they already know at school, or their teachers' names. This is a new change for both of you, and the more engaged you are the more supported they’ll feel. For the first couple of weeks (or longer), ask your child the night before about the timetable for the following day, ask what subjects they have and what they will need for the day.

Schools are always keen to make you feel part of the school community, so look out for family learning sessions in school bulletins.

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Tip #7: Keep checking in


It may help to set aside some time every week when you do something together, like go for a walk or prepare a meal together. This will give you the chance to talk to each other without making a big deal of it. This page has more advice on talking to young people and listening to what they have to say.

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What if I have twins, triplets or more?

If you have twins, triplets or more ('multiples'), you can find lots of tips and advice on the Twins Trust website to help your children make the move from primary to secondary school.

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Supporting your child

There is a lot for teenagers and young people to deal with at the moment. If you’re worried about how your child is coping, or you’re worried they’ve become a bit withdrawn, we have some advice on our page about supporting your teenager’s mental wellbeing. If you’re still concerned you can contact their school and speak to their guidance teacher about any worries you have.

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