By the end of the first week of September, all young people in the UK will be back to school, returning to classrooms following the most disrupted few years in education. Young people have been tackling disruptions to learning, including lockdowns, isolating, online lessons, and year group distancing. While some flourished in independence, others struggled, realising that they desperately need the face to face element of teaching. We as parents and teachers learnt very quickly which young people had developed the resilience to learn at home, and which need support. And now, our 11 year olds are about to start secondary school, many not ready at all. If you are the parent of a nervous 11 year old, here are some tips for starting year 7, straight from the mind of a secondary school teacher.
Related: How to home school your child
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So many young people arrive to school unprepared. I have to lend at least one pen per lesson. It’s even more important mid/post-Covid that people do not share belongings. Consider how stressful it is for you when you realise you don’t have your access card at work, or your glasses, or your purse on a trip out. Multiply this by 100 and you have the mind of your little one – I often see year 7s burst into tears in the first few weeks because they’ve forgotten something, and it’s an issue that is so easily rectified.
Go stationery shopping
Money might be tight, but you can pick up all the stationery young people need in shops like Poundland, or Home Bargains. No one needs a pack of four Biros for £10 – a bag of pens for a couple of quid, a pack of HB pencils, a ruler, a rubber, highlighters and a calculator are all young people might need. If you can afford it, why not invest in attractive stationery that your child wants – that way they might be more inclined to keep it safe.
Sort a hygiene pack
Another important thing that our young people should be bringing to school to support their learning is a hygiene pack. Why? It sounds strange, doesn’t it – a hygiene pack helping them learn.
Well, young people who are thinking about needing a tissue, or getting their hands on sanitary products, are not thinking about what is going on in a lesson. We all know how annoying it is when our noses are running! Create a hygiene pack, and replenish it each week. That way our young people know that they have all they need in a mini emergency.
- Hand sanitiser
- Face mask
- Sanitary products
- Anti-bacterial wipes
Pack their bag with them each night
It’s easy to think ‘They’re at secondary school now. They can sort their own stuff.’ but independence takes a bit of time to learn. We know how often those bookbags go missing! Revisit the equipment list that your school provides for the first bag pack, and keep it handy for the next few weeks. Check diaries and planners during this process too. Yes it means you have another job to do each night, but packing the bag together means that you know your child has everything they need, and your child knows you know they have everything they need!
First Day Run Through
I do this every year. The day before the year 7s arrive for the first time, I run through my order of the day, making sure I have all my resources in place and I know what I will be doing at each key point in the day.
There is no reason not to do this with your own child. If you have access to a programme of the day, share this with your child so they know what to expect. If not, structure the ‘before school’ preparation. Perhaps organise walking to school with some of your child’s friends from their primary school – my mum walked me to school on my first day of year 7 with some of my friends and their mums.
I also like the idea of a landing platform – somewhere in the house where all the things you need to pick up before you leave live. Think coats, bags, PE kits, books, lunch! That way, there is no anxiety and panic first thing in the morning.
The past few years of disrupted education has caused many young people to completely lose confidence in themselves. Students who were once fairly conscientious are now feeling nervous about their abilities after months alone, with limited support from teachers. Moreover, many children are quite rightly anxious about returning to school because of the pandemic, and it’s our role as adults to support them and their mental health.
Young people need to be built up on a daily basis, and verbal motivation from teaching staff, form tutors, and parents keep them going through long academic terms. Before you send your children back into school, spend some time talking through what they’re good at, what they know, and what they have achieved.
Children thrive on love and support, so although you may be anxious and snappy when trying to get them ready, remember that your child just wants you to show them that you love them, and you’re there for them, no matter what.
This is the perfect time to encourage independence. The likelihood is your child has spent a lot of time being given strict rules and expectations for writing. Secondary school is a big step towards your future, and children need to start taking ownership for their own learning. Instead of sitting with them to complete homework, create a homework timetable together before they start. Instead of reading to your child, encourage them to pick up their book and read to you.
Also, make sure your child knows how to take responsibility for their health and well-being: putting clothes in the laundry, using anti-perspirant, brushing teeth, washing hands, cleaning nails, using tissues. As horrible as it is, young people often use hygiene as a reason for unkindness.
Clearly, back to school 2021 is going to be unusual, uncomfortable, and perhaps a little frightening. But don’t worry – it won’t take long for them to fall into the routine. Let’s hope that this year is much less disruptive for our kids.
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