Preparing your Children (& Yourself!) For Senior School

 I recall clearly the day that very first application for senior school dropped through my door. Obviously I knew it was imminent but it still brought home the cold hard fact that my baby was growing up fast.

Apple on pile of books on school desk:Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

He was going to have to join hundreds of big, no, GIANT people in a huge building, and I wasn't even going to be able to kiss him goodbye at the gate. In fact our senior school is a bus ride away so instead of a gentle chatty walk to school he was going to have to survive a perilous journey. OK so it was actually a handful of stops along a quiet rural route but still.

As a parent we spend the first few years of our child's life nurturing, protecting and teaching and that transition to senior school can feel daunting. For me I think it was the feeling I was losing control. My children were lucky enough to attend a small village school and we literally knew all the children and parents and in fact much of our social lives revolved around those people.

I realised I was unlikely to have those same relationships when they went up to "big school" and I worried that I would have no idea about who they were making friends with. That worry that your baby will fall in with "the wrong crowd" is real and although I tried not to channel the Spanish Inquisition when the kids came home from school it was hard not to question them about who they were spending time with.

Before all of this you have to get through the dreaded school selection process. For us it was relatively easy - there really is only one local secondary state school and we are lucky that it is a good school with a lovely vibe and excellent results record.

You might not be so lucky. When I was growing up my parents really had to pick the best of a pretty bad bunch having faith that as a fairly studious child I would succeed despite some of the school's negative points. I did OK but the environment was toxic and often violent and I do not look back at my schooldays with much fondness.

Looking at schools today I would urge you not to just read the official reports and make a decision based purely on results. The ethos of a school will shape your child so you should look into their motto, their values and their non academic offerings. My children's school is very much part of our community, forward thinking, fund raising for others not just the school and offering a wide range of enhancement opportunities for the students.

Love to Learn sign on wall:Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Visit the school with your child(ren) and chat to current students as well as the staff if that is possible. Look at what displays are on the walls, read the "what's on" notices, see how well maintained the school building and grounds are.

Join a local "Everything *insert name of town here* group on Facebook and ask what people think of the school. You will almost certainly get a flood of both positive and negatives but filter through and see if there seems to be an overreaching issue or plus point that a lot of people mention. If bullying is raised for instance, ask the school about their policies in dealing with issues.

It may be that your local options are all pretty dubious, or you might want your child to flourish in a more selective independent school which will often offer smaller classes, a different ethos or maybe the opportunity for a single sex education.

It is well worth extending your search beyond which schools are on your doorstep. For instance if you are looking at secondary schools in Leicester you will see there is a vast array of choices from faith schools to mixed comprehensives, single sex and mixed day and boarding schools. If you have a gifted child it may be worth looking at independent (private) schools as they may offer scholarships or bursaries to cover or help towards fees.

School selected it's time to really get your head round this big life change. Practice the school run to make it familiar, especially if that involves public transport. We watched ours onto the bus/train and met them at the other end the very first time we practiced.

Make sure you apply for transport or travel passes in plenty time - our school bus pass has to be ordered in June for a September start! 

Ask people who already have children in the school if you really need EVERYTHING on the kit list. None of mine have ever used cricket kit, their locker or their tech apron. Join or start a What's App group for new students and advertise it on that Everything whatever page. You might even be able to organise a couple of social events before the start of term.

School lockers:Photo by Laura Rivera on Unsplash

Make sure your child makes the most of any transition days and talk about them and the start of school in positive manner. Telling them tales like the day you got your head flushed down the toilet will not help but nostalgic anecdotes about friends and experiences you enjoyed at senior school will help them become excited about this move!

Above all, relax. After all you survived them going to playgroup/nursery/infant school even if there might have been tears on both sides. Most children are fine in school and by the time they break up in December you will be wondering what you were so worried about.