Sunday, 8 September 2013

Starting Secondary School - My Top Five Tips

Before the children broke up for the school holidays I met up with some of the other mothers of year six kids, all off to the local high school in September.  Although this year I have the benefit of hindsight in terms of what to buy and what not to buy, it was clear from my conversation with my friends that they all felt pretty much at sea with what to expect, as their children were all first borns.  What was supposed to be a quick post school run coffee soon turned into a conversation about dos and dont's for mums of new starters.  I thought it might be helpful if I blogged about it and I've tried to keep things as general as possible although obviously all schools are different so some things won't necessarily apply to everyone.

Getting ready for Secondary School - it's not just about sewing on name tapes you know...

Firstly let's talk about uniform.  This year our school has introduced a new uniform, rendering anything I might have been able to pass from one child to another completely useless.  Our school had helpfully specified a uniform supplier that only dealt with online, postal or phone orders so we couldn't try anything on.  My main piece of advice, if you are in the same position, is to measure your child properly, also remember to allow for growth.  It sounds obvious but even though I measured dd1s blazer (she was a size smaller than the smallest available size so we went with the next size up) it still doesn't look too generous.  She is petite so I am quite happy with this but many parents like to buy only two or three blazers to last their child's time at school rather than one a year so getting the fit right is crucial to saving money in this area.  In addition to this, consider purchasing a second tie for that day when they will find they've lost the first one on the way home/after PE/because someone stole it for a laugh.  Far easier to be prepared than for them to get a detention for not having the correct uniform.

Do make sure you have twenty million black biros (approximately) and leave them in a prominent place.  Your child will go through them at an alarming rate.  If they aren't the type to write lots you will probably find they've lost them or lent them to a friend, either way, if you don't have a permanent supply of cheap pens you will most certainly end up like me on more than one occasion, tearing every pen tidy, drawer and handbag apart until you find that elusive last black pen in existence, five seconds before they need to leave the house in the morning.

Check that your maths set and calculator are regulation issue!  I'm not joking, our school have specified the make and model of calculator and type of maths set this year.  Last year I packed ds1 off to school with a cheap calculator and no maths set at all, forgetting that he's rather good at the subject, and once he had been at school for a few months his teacher moved the class onto some fairly complex work.  The calculator was not up to the job and worse still, Amazon had run out of the correct one, necessitating a moonlight raid on Tesco to source the maths set at least, just so that he could complete his homework (which I might add, he had left until the last minute again!).

Help your child get organised and pin up copies of their timetable in the kitchen and their room.  Ok, so  I've stolen this tip from the head of year at school.  Last year I dutifully followed this bit of advice and it really does work so I'm sharing it.  In the beginning, ds1 was quite disorganised and needed me to remind him of what needed packing. Having easy access to the timetable meant that we could both quickly check it and sort out any missing items or books.  He soon became good at knowing what he needed and didn't need to refer to the timetable after a while, but it was still helpful for me to know when PE kits and Home Ec ingredients were required.

Finally, if you don't have an endless supply of cash, discuss a budget for the school canteen and what it can be spent on.  At the start of last year we decided that ds1 would have enough money for one lunch a week and take sandwiches the rest of the time, however, this soon changed and he ended up using the money for additional snacks and taking packed lunches as well!  School operate a cashless system which not only makes it easy to spend any money on account in one or two visits but also means that they can go into overdraft on their account if they don't have enough money available.  This is too much of a temptation for ds1 so this year I am considering loading the money on in weekly installments rather than at the start of every half term.

So, there you have it, my top five tips.  There are probably loads more things too but these are the things that have helped us set off on the right foot this year with dd1.  Please feel free to leave any more you can think of in the comments below.  I'm always looking for ways to save my sanity with the pre teens!

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