The school will endeavour to support parents and carers as much as possible when choosing a secondary school for their child but the ultimate decision and responsibility for this is the parents’. It is really important to start the process of visiting schools in good time if you are considering a range of different options.
Most schools hold open days in September for entry the following academic year. It may be a good idea to attend these when your child is in Year 5, so that you have a clearer idea as to where you would like your child to attend. Council websites hold this information.
It is useful to consider making a list of questions to ask before you attend a school open evening, particularly if your child has any special educational needs. Some ideas are below:
- Is there a Learning Mentor or counsellor in school? It would help my child to have a key person to turn to if she has a problem and ideally she would meet them before she starts in September
- Is there a homework club? How often does it take place? Can she do her homework here on a daily basis?
- If there is no provision, are there any members of support staff or older children who could run this? Might a sixth former do this as part of their community service for D of E or earn some pocket money?
- Is there a buddy system so she has someone to show her around and look out for her initially?
- What is the system to disseminate information to different teachers about a particular pupil? E.g. do they use communication passports?
- Who will be parent/carers point of contact? How can we communicate?
- How frequently are parent teacher consultations held? Can we meet more regularly if necessary?
- Is there is system of study support for different academic subjects? Who leads on this?
- Is there provision or a separate building for Year 7 so they are not swamped in the main bulk of the secondary school?
- Is there a breakout zone where pupils can go to calm down or just take themselves away from busy school if they feel things are getting on top of them?
- Do the children each have a locker to keep their books in or do they keep everything at home and make sure that they bring the correct resources to school each day?
- If a child is apt to get distracted easily in class, is there a supportive mechanism to keep them focused on the learning?
- When is the transition day when children come in the summer term to see the school? Is there a forum for parents to meet on this day too? Are there parent representatives for each class? Do parents have a class list before the beginning of term so that they can organise some playdates before they start?
- What percentage of the Y7 intake come from different primary schools?
A number of our Year 6 pupils sit entrance examinations to highly competitive private secondary schools. Each school has their own entrance requirements but most involve examinations and interviews, which usually take place towards the end of the Autumn and the beginning of the Spring term in Year 6. This can be an extremely stressful time and it is important to register your interest and attend open days in good time so that you are well informed and can approach the decision as calmly as possible. For some children, this is the first time in their life that they have “failed” at anything and the pressure to succeed can weigh very heavily on them. It is important to manage this process carefully by keeping the children’s best interests at heart, managing expectations and making appropriate choices thereby reducing the stress and anxiety levels of all children as much as possible.
As with many things, individuals will have differing opinions on the secondary schools to which our children transfer. However, it is really important particularly at this time that everyone keeps their opinions to themselves and is free to make their own personal choices.
We will be giving a strong message to the children at the beginning of their Year 6 that discussion and comment around people’s choices of secondary school is unhelpful and often unkind and therefore to be avoided. It is very important for us as a school to have a culture of respect around this and we would ask all parents to support us in this. This means keeping any strong opinions away from the children and speaking with them as a family about the importance of supporting and encouraging all their peers without exception.