Providing support and promoting respect for everyone with a visible difference

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Starting a new school if you look different

We look at how you can prepare for starting a new school and what you can do if people react to how you look.

Starting a new school can feel scary. Everyone feels this way, but it can be even harder if you look different. You might be worried about making new friends or what your new teachers will be like – and how people might react to your appearance.

On this page, we look at how you can prepare for starting a new school and how people might react to your visible difference.

Why you might be worried

You might be worried about being teased or bullied because of how you look – or just that you might be asked lots of questions you don’t want to answer.

Looking different can mean that other people are curious about your appearance. They might wonder what happened to you or if it hurts. It might be helpful to think about some of the things you are worried about when starting a new school and look at some ways of handling these worries.

Before starting a new school

Here are some things you should do before starting a new school to help you prepare:

  • Think about what you will wear. This might be a school uniform which means you will be wearing the same as everyone else. Or you might be able to wear your everyday clothes. If so, choose something you feel comfortable in – and something you like that makes you feel confident. Maybe talk to your family about what you would like to wear on your first day.
  • Think about what you need to take. Make a list of all the stationery, equipment and kit you need and plan a shopping trip. Having all the essentials you need will help you to feel more ready.
  • Check your timetable. If you get your timetable before you start, have a good look with your parents or carers so you know what you can expect. What subjects will you be doing? When are the breaks? How long are lessons? If you have any physical health needs this can help you to plan if you need to take a break from lessons and your parents/carers can let the school know in advance to make plans for this.
  • Ask questions. Speak to people you trust about any worries you have and they can help you find out information and reassure you. This could be your parents, carers, brothers or sisters, friends, family members or even teachers at your previous school.

What if I get asked about my visible difference?

You might be worried about being asked about the way you look. It can help to plan a response.

Think about how much or how little you want to say.

It’s also better to stick to the facts. For example, “I have psoriasis, but I am OK”, or a longer description such as, “I have Crouzon syndrome – it affects how my face looks, but I don’t have any other problems”. Have a look at our guide to preparing responses.

Do I need to tell the school anything about my visible difference?

You and your family might decide to tell the school about your condition, mark or scar. It is up to you – but it can sometimes be helpful to:

  • Make sure teachers know about your visible difference and how you describe it to others. This can help teachers to explain it to others who might be curious, in language you are happy with. It might help prepare them in case other people tease or bully you.
  • Tell teachers if you have any physical health needs. You might need longer to move between classes or to sit in a particular place in the classroom. For example, if you have hearing or sight problems it might be easier if you sit at the front of the class. Talking to your teacher before school starts means you don’t have to worry about this later.
  • Tell the school about any upcoming hospital appointments or surgery. You might need time off school to attend hospital. It can be helpful to explain this to the school before you start so they can plan for this.

How do I make friends?

Making new friends is a big worry for almost everyone when they start a new school. You might be worried that it will be harder for you because of the way you look and that people will judge you because of your appearance.

How you look is only part of who you are

Remember, how you look is only a small part of who you are. Although it’s often the first thing people notice, we choose our friends because of their personality and whether they like the same things we do.

And you’re right, it might be a bit more difficult for you to start with because sometimes people might ask you questions – but that doesn’t mean you won’t make friends.

Starting conversations

It can help to be ready to start a conversation if you get the chance. Thinking about this in advance can make it easier. It’s not easy to start those first conversations but once you’ve taken the plunge, it gets easier straight away! You won’t “click” with everyone. Don’t be put off, try a few times until you meet some people you get on with.

Here are some tips on beginning a conversation when starting a new school:

  • Ask to join in with others.
  • Ask someone if they would like to join you. For example, “Would you like to have lunch with me?”
  • Start a conversation. Use general questions. For example, “Do you know which way to go to maths?”, “Where did you go to school before?” or “How is your first day?”
  • Introduce yourself: “Hi, I’m Maja, what’s your name?”

Other people who are also nervous about starting school will be really pleased you’ve been friendly and included them!

Take a look at our guide to meeting new people and also our page on what to do if people ask questions about your visible difference.

What can I do if I am bullied?

Schools have special policies in place to stop bullying.

If people are upsetting, hurting or humiliating you, you may be being bullied. You should tell an adult you trust so they can help you and make it stop. Speak to your teacher or a family-member who can tell your school what is happening. Take a look at our guide to bullying to learn more.

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