A successful transfer to secondary school can often rely on parents and professionals working closely together with the child.
What you can do
As the person who knows your child best you will be aware of when the best time is to start to prepare your child for the move to secondary school. However, usually from the start of year six, teachers are preparing children in their class for the year ahead and will talk to them about the future so it's important to plan ahead.
If your child has a statement or an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHC) plan discussions about future schools will take place at the year 5 annual review and again at the review in year 6. This is a chance for you to talk about any worries that you or your child may have about secondary education.
You should complete the annual review paperwork ahead of the meeting. Be sure to ask the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) for the form if they do not send it to you and check that the SENCO of the new school has been invited at least to the Y6 review.
Make sure your child's statement or EHC plan accurately reflects your child's current needs and the provision to be made to meet them.
Make your decision early about the school you prefer if you can this will allow plenty of time for plans to be made and put in place. For year 6 children who do not have statements you will need to decide in the autumn term prior to the move and will know which school your child will go to in the spring term.
If your child does not have a statement and you have concerns, speak to the class teacher and or SENCO of your child's primary or junior school.
Most secondary schools will hold an open evening for parents and children who are making decisions about schools to look around and speak to teachers. Make a point of speaking to the SENCO if you can and if not make a separate appointment to meet with them on another occasion.
If your child is moving to a special school arrange to meet with the class teacher, headteacher or family support / liaison worker.
Make a list of any questions you or your child may have and write down the answers you are given.
Let your child's teacher or primary SENCO know if there are children who your child would like to be in the same class with or if there are any they should not be with.
If you think your child might need a sensible 'buddy' to begin with, let the teachers know.
If there are support services involved for example the Support Service for Visually Impaired or hearing impaired children it may be a different teacher who supports children at the secondary school, find out if this is the case and ask to meet with both teachers together if you would like to.
Use the time before the move to familiarise your child with the journey to school and any travel arrangements that have been made.
Ask for your child to have additional visits during the summer term if you think this will help.
If your child has taken pictures or made maps during their visits to the new school you might need to spend a little time together during the summer holiday looking at them and talking about them.
Make sure you are aware of the policies of the new school, for example the special needs policy or the behaviour policy.
Find out who you can contact if you need to and when and how best to do this e.g. a phone call between 9.30am and 12pm on Wednesdays, or an email at any time.
Be positive! If you let your child know that you are worried they will probably be worried too. Share your good experiences of your own time at secondary school.
What the school can do
If your child has a statement or an EHC plan the appropriate teacher from the new school will be invited to attend the year six annual review.
Schools will share information about your child with the new school and bring any concerns you, your child or they have to their attention.
All children will have the chance to visit the new school during the summer term, if your child needs more visits the schools can arrange for this to happen. If they need to experience school routines at a particular time, for example lunch time, this should be arranged.
Schools can use the expertise of any specialist services (autism outreach, support service for special educational needs) involved to give advice or provide resources to help with school transfer. They can also:
Answer any questions that you or your child might have.
Make a passport with your child to take with them to the new school.
Support them to make the most of any school visits.
Help your child to make a transition journal.
Practice using a school planner/ homework diary.
Encourage your child to become more independent in key stage two and to become used to working with different adults.
Provide information about timetables and important members of staff as soon as possible. Preferably before the end of the summer term in year six.
Make your child a school ambassador encouraging them to feedback after their extra visits to their classmates. Invite your child to summer school or holiday activities at the secondary school if they provide them.
Make reasonable adjustments to enable your child to be fully included in school without discrimination.
What your child can do
There are things the child can do to help ensure a positive transfer experience:
Talk to you or to a trusted person if they have any worries about moving to a new school.
Make the most of any visits by taking photographs of important places or people, making maps and making sure they know where to go if they have a problem. They may need some support to do this.
Look at the website of the new school.
Colour code their timetable to make it easier to read, link colours to lessons, rooms or buildings dependent on how the new school is organised.
Learn about the new schools routines and rules.
Practice the journey to the new school.
Try to do some homework every day.
Join a lunch or after school club, a homework club might be particularly good if this is an issue at home. This will give them somewhere to go and they will quickly build up a group of friends across all age groups.