What will help your child at Secondary School

Alternative pass the parcel ideas

I’m going off topic a little and drawing experience from my part time teaching assistant role – I hope it helps a little.

Going up from Primary to Secondary School

Leaving Primary school and heading to a new school can be extremely daunting, even for the most confident child. For those who are shy or awkward, it can feel terrifying.

So the best advice I can give is to plan ahead to help your child as much as you can.

Here’s a few things I’ve learnt watching Year 7’s enter Secondary School that not all children and parents are aware of, but handy to know.

A few good opening lines. This will help your child in the first few weeks at school. Talk to them about what to talk about with new friends, they may cringe but they’ll also be secretly grateful – good opening lines:

  • What school have you come from? Was it far away?

  • What was your last teacher like?

  • How did you get to school today?

  • Do you know anyone else at this school? Or have a brother or sister at this school?

  • What games do you play?

  • Did you go on holiday?

  • What sport / tv program / music do you like?

  • Do you know how to…

    tell your child it’s ok for them to ask a friend a simple question on how to do something – more often than not they won’t know either – it can help children to gel.

These may seem like standard questions to you, but a nervous child will be tongue-tidied. Give them a little help by talking about it before and after their first day.

What to have in a pencil case:

It’s incredible to me how many children turn up to lessons without the basic equipment, pen, pencil, ruler, rubber. More often the not it’s the child forgetting, or not bothering to pack it – worth checking.

You can top up your stationery here 😉

  • A pencil case. No doubt your child will want to choose but a clear one is so handy.

  • A pen that suits your child. Not all pens are the same, some can change a child’s handwriting quite dramatically. Please don’t go out and buy the most expensive ink cartridge pen unless the school has made it a requirement. If they do, let your child practice putting an ink cartridge in. There’s nothing worse than seeing that spanking new school uniform covered in indelible ink.


    Please do not give your child a fountain pen unless a) they’ve used one before and are capable of using it well or b) their new school has demanded they have one.

    Since returning to school as a teaching assistant I have been handing out wet wipes like there’s no tomorrow. If your child has been arriving home with their shirt covered in ink then believe me, it wasn’t a good idea to buy them that expensive Parker pen.

  • HB pencils – at least two, then they can offer one to a new friend who forgot theirs.

  • A ruler. Best if it can fit in a pencil case, longer are better but tend to get unused, broken or lost.

  • A compass. With a small nib.

  • A protractor.

  • A rubber.

  • A pencil sharpener, with container to hold filings.

  • Coloured pencils are handy – best to have in a separate pencil case as they’re used a lot less often.

  • Highlighter pens. Very useful, especially as they get older and need to pick out text.

  • Glue stick. Buy a pack, give your child one and hord the rest. Children have lots to stick into their exercise books. Teachers usually do have a few but in many, many schools this now comes out of their own pocket. Schools don’t have the budgets these days to provide all the necessary equipment. If you don’t want your child to have to wait while the last gummy stick finds its way to them, provide one for them.

  • Tissues. Useful for colds and also ink spills.

The next few suggestions might annoy a few: 

…and you may wonder what it’s got to do with school. However, many times I’ve come across children unable to do certain tasks because somehow they just got missed. Make this summer holiday a any time to practise.

  1. Tying shoe laces. So many children now have velcro shoes and somehow managed to miss the learning of tying a bow. However there’s nothing more awkward or embarrassing for a child as to not to know how to tie up an apron in Food Tech or Design Technology and having to ask the teacher. Teach them.
  2. Washing their hands after visiting toilets and before lunch – germs are rife in schools!
  3. Learning to ride a bike well. Many people live in areas where it’s not easy to teach a child to ride a bike, and not everyone can afford one. However, sometimes there may be an occasion to ride a bike during school, such as a school trip or a field trip. Or maybe a new friend will, at some point ask if your child will join them for a bike ride. So don’t let them miss out, teach them. If you can’t ride yourself (don’t judge, it happens) then ask a neighbour or friend if you can borrow a bike and teach your child. It took me a couple of hours to teach a fourteen year old on a school trip. This is still one of my proudest moments to date, we had a blast!
  4. If they haven’t already TEACH THEM TO SWIM!! No need to explain why, it’s the same as road safety, they need to know. Book lessons for over the summer now. Again, if you can’t afford it there are many summer deals, some free at most swimming centers, take a look.
  5. Times tables and number lines. Try it in a fun way, keep testing. Here’s just one site of many, but don’t leave it all up to a website test them and keep testing, car journeys can be a good time to practise. https://www.timestables.co.uk/

Bad handwriting? Get them to practise a little.

Your child will not be the only one. Many children have awful handwriting; today’s child reads text far more than seeing a teacher write on a board. Although everyone excuses it saying we’ll all be typing in the future they’ll still be doing an awful lot at school and in exams. If I were an examiner I’d want to mark an exam paper down if it has taken me twice as long to decipher the handwriting. There’s some very good YouTube videos now that may help.

While on the subject of typing, and more for fun than a necessity why not teach your child to touch type? It’s usually not taught at school but is a great skill to have. Google ‘touch typing for kids’ – here’s quite a good one that’s fun and free: https://www.typingclub.com/

Holding doors open

In an age where we don’t hold doors for women it is still nice to hold them open for each other, whether male or female. I’m quite shocked how good most children are on this. You may assume that older children are mean to younger ones but that isn’t true from what I’ve seen. Teenage kids can be really nice!

How to dispose of chewing gum

I’ve seen some schools so littered with so much gum on the floor that you can barely see the carpet. This is truly disgusting, and potentially dangerous germ-wise. I would love to see a school where there is no gum whatsoever but I’d be crazy to think that no child will ever bring gum into school. So if you can, teach them to put gum in a tissue or paper before putting it in a bin. It will save you from having to scrape it off skirts or trousers, if we all taught our kids to do this rather than on the underside of a desk or chair at least it’d help a bit.

Pick up rubbish

Similar to gum, just get them in the habit of finding a bin – inside and outside of school.

Teach them to be kind

We all do it but somewhere along the line some kids forget.

Give them the opportunity to read

Reading for pleasure doesn’t come naturally to children, finding the right book helps. If you still have a library near you, it’s worth a visit. I love my Kindle as I can touch a word and immediately get the definition for it, may be worth thinking of buying a second hand one.

Hey, you? Relax!

It’s daunting for them, it can also be for you, especially if your secondary school experience wasn’t the best. Try to hide your fear, they are not you, they will meet different people and have a very different experience to you. Be upbeat and positive without being over-the-top.

They will adapt very quickly, secondary school can be the best days of your life, especially if you have positive backup. They can also be the best times for you as a family, having teenagers is not always the nightmare that people make out, which is why I absolutely love, love, love my teaching assistant job.

All the best, enjoy your summer fast growing child!