From primary to secondary school

Isaac primary school to secondary school transition

As one chapter ends, a new one begins. In less than two weeks, Isaac’s primary school journey will end. In September, he begins his new adventures at secondary school.

Truthfully, the transition has started already. We’ve been ticking off the milestones over the past couple of months. Sats completed. His final sports day last Friday. School leavers’ play this week. He’ll bring home his last school report today.

He’s already visited his new school three times in the last fortnight to start the acclimatisation process. A welcome evening for new pupils and parents. A transition day for all the incoming Year Sevens. And his first school fair last weekend. He’s started to make new friends. He’s earmarked a few clubs he wants to join. And we’ve started buying new uniform and all the other paraphernalia a secondary school student requires.

It’s full steam ahead!

Excited or nervous?

For some kids – and their parents – this is a sad, scary time. But the primary emotion I’m feeling at the moment is excitement.

After his recent visits to his new school, Isaac is feeling a lot less nervous too. He came back from his transition day bubbling over with excitement and desperate to tell us about all the interesting things he had done. His new, pristine white lab coat arrived this week. From the way he strutted proudly about in it, you’d think it was more Lagerfeld than Laboratory.

His excitement is entirely justified. There’s so much for him to be enthusiastic about.

Moving up to secondary school marks a significant step in his growing independence. We finally gave him his first (hand-me-down) mobile phone at Easter. Instead of a seven-minute walk to school every morning, most days he will now have two 25-minute hikes either side of a solo train journey to and from Reading. It’s a big step.

And the start of a new term will see him and his year-mates in at the deep end. Instead of spending entire days in the same classroom with the same teacher, they will become responsible for getting themselves to the right class at the right time with the right books, for managing multiple homework assignments and for generally self-organising their entire days.

There is a huge range of lunchtime and after-school clubs. He will take on the widest range of subjects – languages, sciences, humanities – he will ever experience in his school career. Some he will excel in; others he may struggle with. He’ll discover new passions he doesn’t realise even exist at the moment – and probably the odd subject he hates with a vengeance.

When I was a lad

Reliving the experience through his eyes has reminded me how exciting a time it was for me at the same point in my life.

I’m quite jealous, really.

I remember that first year or two of my secondary school career as a whirlwind of discovery. Not just new subjects but learning how to cope without mum and dad or a teacher to watch over my every move. Discovering that I loved history as a subject – but hated art. Managing my time, my money – I spent way too much on burgers and chips! – and myself.

The whole experience stretched me, not just academically but in terms of personal growth. Looking back, my first year or two at secondary school probably had a bigger influence on shaping my adult self than any other time in my life, including my university years and the period immediately after I moved out of my parents’ home for good.

The challenges ahead

It will be interesting to see how Isaac copes with the challenges ahead. The school he’s going to is highly selective. Every year there are around 1,000 applicants for 150 places. So, like many of his new peers, he’s used to being top dog academically. But the likelihood is he will suddenly find himself in the middle of the pack, possibly even towards the bottom in some subjects. That’s a big shock to the system.

My one criticism of his time at primary school is that it was a bit too easy for him at times. He wasn’t pushed hard enough often enough, and he’s the first to admit he doesn’t handle adversity well, simply because he’s faced it so rarely.

How he copes with the inevitable challenges of his new environment will shape him just as much – if not more – than his successes. It may be hard at times but they will mould him into a better, more resilient young man who is better prepared to face whatever his future brings.

We’re just about to put the final full stop on his primary school journey. The next page is blank and ready for a fresh story. Who knows what will unfold now?

If that isn’t an exciting prospect, I don’t know what is.


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