After lockdown: facing transition to a new school

Here are some thoughts on how to manage a child’s worries and concerns about transitioning to a new school after being in lockdown. It may be helpful if you are:

  • A parent or guardian of a child with mark, scar or condition affecting their appearance (visible difference)
  • An education professional or youth worker

In this factsheet, we will focus on the transition from primary to secondary school, but the advice may apply to nursery also.

What are the challenges?

With the news that some schools may begin a phased reopening, some children may now feel very worried and anxious about returning to school. The closure of schools due to Covid-19 may also create additional challenges around transition from one school to another. The thought of moving from nursery to primary school, or from a primary school of a few hundred to a secondary school of, perhaps, 1,000 pupils can cause many children to worry. Normally, managing this change might include the pupil visiting the secondary school and meeting their new teachers to ensure they are familiar with their new environment. However, while schools are closed these visits will not happen.

If a child has a visible difference, the challenge of this change can feel even more difficult and anxiety-provoking. In addition to worries about transition, your child may have felt comfortably cocooned at home and be even more anxious about returning to school and public scrutiny. There is also a concern that important information about your child’s specific needs may not be passed on from school to school.

So, what can I do?

Parents and schools work together: Ideally, the primary school would liaise with parents and the secondary school to ensure any support needs are put in place. Parents can encourage the schools to liaise with each other by getting in touch with their child’s primary school to discuss the transition and what has been, or will be, put in place. Primary and secondary schools will be familiar with the process of transition and may already have plans.

Contact the secondary school: There may be reasons the primary school isn’t in a position to pass on information. In this case, you might consider contacting the secondary school initially by email – their email address will be on their website – to arrange a suitable time for a telephone call.

Speaking to the secondary school: Here are some suggestions that may help you when speaking with the school.

  • Tell the new school about your child and your concerns
  • Highlight the particular worries and concerns your child is experiencing
  • Let them know what support they are currently receiving
  • Give details of their visible difference and any associated medical needs
  • Explain how you and your child prefer to have their condition, mark or scar described. This will help the teacher, as they may not know what words to use.
  • Ask who their tutor group teacher will be – if this decision has been made yet
  • Ask who the school’s pastoral team are and who your child should go to if they have concerns
  • Ask if their new teacher could video call, call or email your child, so they feel familiar with them on their first day
  • Let them know what you think will help your child settle in and tell them about what worked and what didn’t work, in their last school.
  • Ask them what will happen on the first day and if there’s anything you or your child should prepare beforehand?
  • Let them know about Changing Faces’ teacher support materials on our website

Preparing your child: Here are some suggestions of things you can do to support your child and ease concerns they may have about starting a new school:

  • Look at the school’s website together. This should have lots of information about the school, including newsletters, curriculum information, names of teachers and support staff, as well as school activities, such as visits, drama and music productions etc. This will help your child to become familiar with the new environment and make it feel less ‘unknown’.
  • Talk to them about the things they may like or be interested in at their new school. Feeling positive about the school and all the various activities they can become involved in will help them look forward to the new school, rather than worry about it.
  • If friends or other pupils in your child’s current class are also attending the new school, try swapping information with other parents. Or if you know another parent whose child already attends the school ask them about their child’s first day and perhaps see if they and your child could talk to each other.
  • A walk or drive past the school can help familiarise your child with their new environment. You can always use Googles Street view to do a mock journey to school from your own home.

The following factsheets may also be helpful:

Advice for parents:

After lockdown: worries about returning to school

Read

Preparing your child for nursery or school

Read

Information to give a nursery or school

Read

Advice for children:

Preparing for school

Read

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