Worried about your child starting secondary school? Read this….

child starting secondary school

Will your child be in the next wave of kids starting secondary school? Are you worried about your child starting secondary school and how they will adjust? Maybe you are inwardly panicking and feeling more stressed about it than they are? Or perhaps your child is showing signs of anxiety about starting secondary school.

Starting secondary school is a huge milestone but also a really exciting rite of passage too. It can also be a time of great trepidation for both parents and children alike

With that in mind, here, Ryan Lockett, director of studies at online tutoring company TLC LIVE and former head of Year 10 and 11 at a state secondary school shares his top tips on how to not fall apart at the seams.

Reassurance, reassurance, reassurance 

Starting secondary school is one of the most significant moments in a child’s young life – they’re in a new environment with new classmates and responsibilities. 

This year is even more difficult. The move from primary to secondary has been overlooked as the media focussed on the GCSE/A Level grading debacle, but this transitional cohort of pupils are arguably more impacted: the final two years of their primary education were massively disrupted.  

As a secondary school teacher and head of year, I learnt to identify the signs that a student is struggling, and we developed strategies for supporting them in their move from Year 6 to Year 7.   

Warning signs  

With the last two years of their education compromised, it’s understandable that students have a less than ideal attitude toward their studies. They may, quite reasonably, be lacking motivation, self-discipline and engagement. If you have noticed an uptick in these behaviours in your child, they are likely struggling with the transition and might need additional guidance and support.  

The first step is to try to understand what is upsetting them. Have a chat with them and consider reaching out to their form tutor or head of year for more context. Do what you can to work with the school and address the specific issues that they’re facing, although recognise that some issues – such as missing old friends or feeling stressed about the pandemic – are obviously beyond your control.  

After addressing specific issues, it’s important to convey to your child that you’re proud of them as they take on this difficult transition. Praise them for all of their successes, large and small. If they’re negative toward school, try to get them to focus on something they feel positive about, such as an after-school activity or subject they really enjoy, to remind them of better school experiences.  

child starting secondary school

Restoring confidence  

Unfortunately, feeling stressed about academic performance is a self-perpetuating issue, which is known as “self-handicapping”. This happens when students feel overwhelmed or have fallen behind and create a reason or mental barrier to explain their failure and, as a result, stop applying themselves. By focusing on their successes, even something as small as putting their hand up in class, you can help them to cultivate a positive attitude toward learning – it’s not just their test results that count.  

Encourage your child as they rebuild their confidence and, if you have the time, sit with them and offer support with their schoolwork. If the student feels concerned or anxious about their academic performance, consider offering them the opportunity to work with a tutor once a week to catch up.  

Overcoming knowledge gaps 

Incoming secondary school students have, for reasons entirely outside of their control, fallen behind academically. They will need additional support to ensure that they are up to speed on key subjects – but it’s equally important that we don’t apply too much pressure to students who have only just left primary school.  

According to recent research by RS Assessment, Year 6 students are behind on technical areas of English and some areas of maths. In core subjects like these, it’s especially important for parents to check in on whether their child feels comfortable with the material they’re covering and provide additional support if necessary.  

Parents can reach out to the school if they are concerned that their student is falling behind in key areas, as many schools are equipped to provide catch-up sessions or connect them with online tutoring providers using funding from the government’s Covid catch up scheme, the National Tutoring Programme.  

child starting secondary school

Avoid overworking 

As important as academic attainment is, it always comes second to a student’s wellbeing. Inquire with the school about their homework policy and reassure your child that they are doing enough and will be successful. They aren’t alone and nobody expects them to make up the academic deficit overnight.  

Students may benefit from creating a weekly homework plan, such as allocating an hour every school day from 4 to 5pm and then switching off and using the evening to relax and see friends and family. Year 7 students can also use their time with a tutor to work on homework or other academic catch-up, so they aren’t doubling up on their additional academic commitments.  

Making friends and building relationships 

One of the many tragic consequences of the pandemic is that young people had to sacrifice time with their friends. This may have dented their confidence at the critical moment of changing schools, which is challenging even under normal circumstances. It’s not unusual for your child to be concerned about their friendships, and there are things you can do to support them.  

As a parent, you can reach out to other parents to set up opportunities for your children to get together. See what extracurricular activities the school offers and encourage your child to sign up to clubs that interest them. Many schools also set up a “buddy” system for incoming students, and you can recommend this to the form tutor or head of year if one isn’t yet in place. In some cases, schools may even be willing to move the student to another form or class to be closer to a friend if they’re struggling.  

And more reassurance!

Year 7 students have already demonstrated admirable resilience in the face of incredible disruption. They will undoubtedly adapt and overcome the challenges of starting out at secondary school. While it may not always feel like it to them, especially when they’re having a tough time academically or socially, you can reassure them that everything will be alright.  

Is your child starting secondary school? How are you/they feeling about it all? Feel free to share your thoughts in a comment below.

Photo by cottonbro, Monstera &  Anthony Shkraba from Pexels


  1. I have two children in middle school and it has been such a learning curve for all of us. There has been more teaching about socializing with other kids. Especially, what is appropriate talk and what is not. They are learning and God help us make it through; we are learning too.

  2. Thank you very much for this post! It is really helpful. I agree that it is crucial to chat with children and understand what is upsetting them. It is a new, different moment in their lives when they can face new challenges and feel stressed. We should try to help them overcome this period.

  3. New beginnings like this can be stressful for the kids and parents. It causes anxieties but I really find helpful tips here. Reaching out to fellow parents for support is one

  4. As a former Special Education Teacher I can definitely appreciate how hard it must be right now for both children and parents. Living during a pandemic is a challenge that is new to everyone and keeping children grounded isn’t easy.

  5. It really sucks to know if you’re kid is having anxiety or not in school. It hurts more to the parents. Thanks for sharing some great knowledge here.

  6. I have a daughter who’s in the 8th grade and middle school has been a huge rollarcoaster. Being there for my daughter has helped a lot and this post has gave some amazing tips that I have to try!

  7. It really feels sad when you knew that your kid may have anxiety in her schooling. I hope all kids could share their problems.

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