What to expect from your child's first term at secondary school - a parent's perspective

Harry turned 12 in September last year and started Secondary School (year 7) in the same month. After almost 9 years at Primary School, he was more than ready to make the transition but as Harry is my first-born, it has been a bit like stepping into the unknown for all of us. I really wanted to share how his first term at Secondary School has been going and hopefully provide some insight into others who are making the transition next year.

What to expect from your child's first term at secondary school - a parent's perspective


1 - A surge in hormones

I would say hormones have been something we've had to deal with for the past year or so and aren't specifically related to year 7 but I couldn't not mention them. Over the past year there has definitely been a shift in Harry's behaviour. He can become angry and irrational for no particular reason/the smallest thing and has started to act like a typical lazy/grumpy teenager at times. He can act like he has the weight of the world on his shoulders and can sometimes get upset over something which to us seems tiny. I know through speaking to other parents of boys of this age that it is just hormonal and nothing too much to worry about - a new parenting challenge for us though. Another consequence in this is that Harry is now taking an interest in how he looks - I would NOT choose his current hair style for him (and he knows this) but it's what he wants so I'm happy for him to go with it.

2 - Independence

I would say one of the biggest changes for Harry has been his increased independence. Our secondary school is a 40 minute walk away and Harry tends to cycle/scoot with his friends. He's had to learn the way and be responsible for getting up and getting himself to school himself. Our school opens at 8am and Harry likes to get there pretty early to buy a hot chocolate in the morning and catch up with his friends so he has often left the house before the rest of us have even got out of bed.

Harry is very bright and in some ways, this frustrates me as he ALWAYS leaves his homework to the last minute yet still manages to get outstanding grades and marks. Sometimes he'll even complete it on the way to school and will receive an award! I'd much prefer him to complete his work as soon as he receives it but I've decided to just let him do what he wants to and to not nag him to complete his homework - he's responsible for it and if it's not completed on time, he has to deal with the consequences. I think it's important to accept that we all learn/work differently and as long as his grades don't slip, I'm fine to let Harry manage his own workload.

Our secondary school has its own fuel card system where parents load up the card with money and pupils can spend it in school. Harry has managed his own money well and I've been pleasantly surprised with his healthy lunch choices too (parents can check online to see what their children are ordering). Harry did go through a phase of going to the shops every day after school and wasting his pocket money on pop and sweets but I he soon learned his lesson when he wanted to buy an XBox download and didn't have enough £. Managing money has definitely been a learning experience for Harry but he's coping quite well.

3 - New and changing friendships

Harry's Primary School class was small (around 20 in the year group) and he didn't attend any after-school clubs so his friendship group was quite small. Going to secondary school has been a massive change for him as there are probably around 10-15 x more children in his year group now. Harry has made new friends in his form group and classes and stayed good friends with most of the children he went to Primary School with. Sadly, some friendships have fizzled out but as I said to Harry, this year is a huge transition for everyone and I think most friendships have their good times and bad times and I bet old friendships rekindle when they least expect it.

4 - No school runs

For the past 9 years, I've been responsible for taking the kids to and from school for around 80% of the time. We usually walk to and from school and it takes us about 25 minutes. This is such a good time to connect with the kids and chat/catch up so now that Harry makes his own way to school in the opposite direction, it's all been a bit strange and taken some getting used to and I definitely miss our chats.  I have noticed that Harry actively chooses to spend more time with Steve and I now though. He'll have a drink and a snack as soon as he gets home and chat about his day and will often stay downstairs and watch grown-up tv with us when the other two are playing in their bedrooms.

5 - Expense

If you feel like you're constantly asked for money in Primary School, expect this to get 1000 times worse in Secondary school. First of all, the uniform is a lot more expensive and more of it needs to be branded with the school logo so there's no option but to buy from the recommended retailer. Then there are school trips to consider (£100+ for a weekend away in the first term and mentions of a ski trip next year) plus Harry needs to buy a Chromebook to use in class and for homework (you buy them from school for around £200 before they start). We use parent pay and random things like calculators are added to our account which we feel like we need to buy and then there's the cost of school lunches which are more too. I am NOT looking forward to a few years time when H, H and J are all in Secondary school. I think I'd better start saving now!

6  - An abundance of after-school and extra-curricular activities

Harry is a really inquisitive child and something I feel he was really lacking in his life was extra-curricular activities. He did join coding club at Primary school and cycle club but that's about it. Nothing else really tickled his fancy. At Secondary school, there are SO many opportunities. He has only been at this new school for one term and has already joined a band and gets to practice in a real music studio once a week. He has written two articles for the school newspaper and is interested in joining a creative writing class too (he has a diary clash at the moment which will hopefully sort itself out). Harry has also used a proper recording studio with a green screen and proper equipment and has access to so many fantastic resources. I am super thankful for the opportunities he has been given and look forward to more in the coming terms.

7 - Communication with school

Our Primary School is small and all communication is via a letter in a bag or a text/phone call. There is a notable change when your child starts Secondary School. I have my own school log in and can email teachers, check Harry's timetable, check what he's eaten for lunch that day, check notices, book parent's evening appointments, check Harry's homework schedule and even review his termly targets/mini-reports. School tends to send emails about important info too which I much prefer. I've honestly never had so much information about my child's education at my fingertips. It's great!

8 - A trip down memory lane

Harry attends the same Secondary School as I did. There have been some changes over the years and it's an academy now but it still feels bizarre walking in the school gates as a parent rather than a pupil. Harry has some of the same teachers as I did too. Our Primary School was in a tiny little bubble and it's nice to know a wider range of parents now - people I went to school with who I haven't been in touch with and acquaintances have children at the same school now and we have a Facebook group for parents where we can always go to for advice/support which is nice.

9 - Bullying

This is something I am much more aware of now. Like I said before, our Primary school is very small. Everyone knows everyone and I've personally not experienced any issues with bullying. Secondary school is a different story though. So far it seems to be going ok with Harry. There has been the odd name-calling by some but nothing too serious. I am aware there is a big problem with bullying in his age group, especially amongst those who have Social Media. Each to their own but I am determined not to let Harry have Instagram until he's 13 although in reality, that's only a few months away. I've heard some horrible stories from other parents at the school, especially with girls and I must admit I hate the thought of Harry walking home by himself but I'm also very much a 'free range' parent and actively encourage my kids to take risks and learn how to do things for themselves. It's always tricky to know if you're doing to right thing as a parent but so far, walking to and from school alone has worked out ok for Harry. I am thankful he has a nice group of friends who look out for each other and he generally cycles or scoots so can get home quite quickly. I think it will be a different story when Heidi starts secondary school though as she is a lot more secretive/led by peer pressure than her brothers and I know with Heidi I'll need to keep a much closer eye on things.

10 - Opportunities to learn 

I've mentioned a few times on here that Harry is such a keen learner. Out of all my children, he's the one that has a real thirst for knowledge and will usually have his head in a book or will be watching YouTube videos about something which I don't even understand. At age 12, his intelligence far surpasses my own and I am super thankful that attending secondary school has really pushed his learning to the next level. I can't keep up anymore but there's no better feeling than your child coming home from school excited and wanting to learn or read more about something they've been studying at school. Harry is on the gifted and talented register and school has already invited me to have a quick chat about how they can support him in future years as he's probably going to be under a lot of pressure. I'm really thankful that Secondary school has provided so much support and opportunity for him and I'm super excited about his future here.

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All Secondary Schools will be different but I'm hoping I've given you a little insight into what life's like in Year 7. Let me know if you noticed any changes too or if you have any questions. 

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What to expect from your child's first term at secondary school - a parent's perspective


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5 comments

  1. It sounds like Harry has settled into secondary school really well. It's such a big change for kids and us as parents.
    I have stepped back with my youngest and it's up to her to do her homework and budget for her lunches. She's not gone hungry yet or missed handing homework in. Phew!
    Good luck with the rest of the school year x
    I think with the bullying issues in schools there is more drama with girls on social media. Boys are more up front. From what I've seen they will confront each other face to face instead of sniping online like girls.

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    1. yes I agree - I think it's bullying is so much worse with girls. I think our kids are much more responsible than we give them credit for at times aren't they x

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  2. As someone with younger kids I find this so interesting to read. Thanks for sharing it - it helps to have an insight into the future! I'm pleased Harry is settling well. He must be bright if he has surpassed you!! I find them needing more independence tough, I want to keep them safe - I'll find it hard I reckon! It's great you get so much more info though and can email. I wish our primary school was like that!

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  3. This is a wonderful insight into the first term at secondary school, as it's SO different to the primary school bubble. It sounds as if Harry is settling in well into year 7, as it can be a difficult year trying to find your feet, and oh yes tell me about those raging hormones. Having 2 in secondary school, which is also an academy less than 5 minutes walk away, I am fully embracing the NO school runs x

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  4. I went to order our uniform last night and nearly died over the price. Only non branded item is trousers. We have to get an iPad too. So expensive x

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