The Challenges of a Transition to Secondary School

Transitioning from a primary school to a secondary environment should be a wonderful and exciting experience for young people, but it is often one that is also shrouded in anxiety at the possibilities that this new experience will bring. The recent Transition Day at ISZN, in which the Grade 5 class visited the Secondary school, inspired me to consider what might help students to feel secure in their new environment and be able to embrace new challenges without fear.

For our transition day, the focus was clearly on allowing the children to experience the teaching style of Secondary staff, become familiar with the new space, and giving them a voice to discuss what they felt high school experiences may entail. They needed to understand that although they were beginning at the ‘bottom’, they were in fact a significant part of a warm and caring ‘whole’ and no less valued for being the youngest. They also needed to hear that we actively encourage them to respectfully question, share ideas and be their own unique selves without fear of retribution.

The day was a fantastic taster of their future lives and I truly hope that each student felt accepted and left brimming with excitement. However, what can you as parents do to make this transition smooth and positive for your child? offers the following advice to parents who are concerned about how best to do this:

First of all, find out the name of the teacher responsible for your child’s overall care, attendance and social and academic progress. At ISZN, this person will be the Homeroom Teacher and we actively encourage our parents to reach out as early as possible to form a relationship with this staff member.

Furthermore, reassure your child that it’s normal to worry about making new friends and let them know that new friends are welcome in your home. This is possibly one of the greatest anxieties for new high schoolers – whether or not they will ‘fit in’ or make new friends easily. Being open to your child’s peers is a helpful start, as is encouraging them to connect socially at school functions and outside of school hours.

Help your child to explore new opportunities, which may arrive in the form of learning a musical instrument, trying a new sport or joining a drama class, all of which are great ways to meet new people and expand their own abilities.Most importantly, be prepared for feelings of uncertainty, and ready to talk openly about all of the ups and downs at home. This is the time when foundations are laid for more serious discussions that need to take place during their teenage years, and the trust that is built when discussing their day to day lives will stand them in good stead when faced with greater challenges!

The transition to a secondary environment need not be a painful or difficult experience, indeed it should be an exciting new discovery for students and one that they face with great enthusiasm. At ISZN, we are here to help them to do just that!