Sunday, 4 September 2016

Tips for Parents of Year 7s

An interesting hashtag on Twitter caught my eye this evening.  #TipsForYear7s.

A long list of helpful and not so helpful things for starting out at high school.  Some of them were quite witty actually.  I especially liked "you are already behind on your art coursework". If only my teens had known that three or four years ago.  

But, what about us parents?  I wish someone had come up with some tips for me when my eldest son started high school.  I remember that it was a bit... overwhelming.  To say the very least.

Well, fear not, people with new secondary school starters, for I have been there (twice over!) and my third child is about to start high school with his brother and sister this very week.  Maybe I could be that person with the tips?

So I thought I'd have a stab at writing a list so that anyone about to embark on this very weird and scary time (for you, not them obvs. They will breeze it).  Here we go.

1.  On the morning of their first day, when they put on the uniform that you bought from the school suppliers about 8 weeks ago for fear of them running out, you will hope and pray that your child hasn't suddenly grown 2ft in height during the summer holiday and that the thing still fits.

2.  Even if they have, they will still look too little and scared to be wearing it.  A bit like when Tom Hanks turns back into a child at the end of "Big".

3.  School lunch boxes are for babies.  Under no circumstances must their lunch go anywhere near Tupperware of any kind.  In fact, let them buy their lunch, it's way cooler (although will probably comprise of a chocolate muffin and a plate of chips).

4.  You must not go anywhere near the school gates whatsoever.  If you have to drop them off, best to do that a couple of streets away and let them walk with their mates.  The school gate is no longer your domain *punches air*

5.  Expect them to have done "nothing" and spent time with "no one" for the whole of their first day (and beyond).  It's a lot like they've turned back into a five year old in this respect. Roll with it.  Just like when they were five, it very rarely is true.

6.  They will inhale the contents of your fridge when they return because they are "starving".  Also, their feet will ache from all the walking they've had to do to each lesson.  Despite the fact that the school is only two streets away and didn't look that big to you when you visited it, they will claim to have walked for miles.  In their heads they have (but don't worry, they get used to it quite quickly).

7.  Don't ignore the fact that you need to sign their homework planner and agree to the rules too.  Do it as soon as they shove it under your nose.  If you forget then they are the ones who get the warning/detention not you! *speaks from bitter experience*. Also, don't sign letters without reading them properly first.  Before you know it you'll have signed you child up for an £1100 Home Economics trip to the Ukraine or similar. There are non compulsory trip letters like this every week.

8.  When they get their first piece of homework to do, it is fairly tempting to help them so that theirs is the best (isn't it obvious that they are the cleverest and destined for top set?  Didn't the teacher see the SATs marks?). Don't.  They'll be getting about five pieces of homework a week and it really is best if you let them get on with it themselves rather than relying on your help (you will not be able to do the Maths homework anyway, don't even try!) otherwise you'll be doing GCSE coursework again before you know it. 

9.  They have had a tight knit group of friends all the way through primary school, possibly since preschool even.  By the end of the first month they might not be friends anymore.  They may have fallen out.  Kids change and no matter how shocking this is, they will make new friends.  They will change friends all the time in fact.  It will all level out a bit once their hormones settle down.  In about Year 11.

10.  Oh, one more thing.  You know that uniform list that you carefully went through and bought all of? (Even the really expensive P.E. Kit when you weren't sure that three different types of top and both football and AstroTurf boots were really necessary?). After their first P.E. lesson you discover that you could have avoided all the cost entirely as they only need a polo shirt, a pair of tracksuit bottoms and some trainers.  I still have a micro fleece training top, several pairs of shorts, white sports socks, a never worn pair of football boots and a gum shield that we never got round to fitting.  Thank goodness the sports department never got back to me with a price for a rugby shirt or else we'd own one of those too.  What can I say?  They were on the list!  Another note: schools very rarely update the uniform lists.

fig. 1. Before aftermarket customisations.

So there you are.  A potted guide to being the parent of a secondary school going child.  And the most important thing?  Always snap a picture of them while they look smart in their uniform (because it's going to be the last time they wear it as it's supposed to be worn, without the "aftermarket" customisations, see fig. 1) and have a tissue handy because you will have a lump in your throat and a tear in your eye.  Your child is about to embark on the final stages of their school career and it all feels a bit scary.  That bit never really changes.

Good luck and welcome to secondary school!


  1. Great post. It's a big scary minefield all over again - for parents as much as kids. We have those bits of unworn PE kit, but my eldest has taken a lunch box every day since year 7! He has just requested that he buy his lunch this year and I've agreed as his younger brother buys his!
    I've now got one in year 11, one in year 8 and one in year 6, so I've got to go through this one more time. I'm really not sure how that happened.

  2. hahaha! Brilliant! You have got it spot on.
    Yep! We have bits of the unused P.E that I spent a small fortune on...Stupid lists. At least I will know for when my youngest starts secondary school.


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