More schools are becoming aware of the importance of helping children transition from primary to secondary school and how vast the change in environment can feel for some pupils.
There is often some distinct sensory differences between the two environments. Primary schools tend to be quieter, with less ‘people traffic.’ There is also a tendency to have one ‘base’ for lessons in primary schools, whereas in secondary there are many different buildings within which certain subjects take place.
My biggest worry when I went to secondary school, was the ‘map’.
I remember the first day there and we initially were given a timetable of the lessons we would be attending each day and the rooms we would need to go to in order to attend those lessons. That was enough of an overload in itself! The environment of one classroom with one teacher who taught a variety of lessons was the norm. Suddenly now there were many lessons, with many different teachers (who I had yet to meet), in many different locations.
And I’d never read a map before. Map reading skills hadn’t come up. Geocaching didn’t yet exist either. But there I was, currently in B block and needed to be in D block. The aerial view of the tops of the buildings in black and white squares seemed to bear no resemblance to the crowds who were bombarding me from all directions in the corridors or the walkways.
As we would say in NLP, the map was not the territory!
But the silliest thing of all was that I mentioned this concern to no one. I assumed it was only a wally who couldn’t figure out the damn map, until very recently (29 years after leaving school), I bumped into an old school friend and blasphemed about the map for the first time. Only to discover that she had exactly the same problem, and like me had never found the correct source with whom to articulate her concerns.
So to make for a smoother school transition, for me, it would have been to have a trustworthy non-judgemental adult who would have said “How are you doing? Are you ok?”
Many schools do now offer a counselling service but often these services are reactive instead of proactive.
That is to say, that they are there to help you when you ask for help. For young, brand new year 7s who want to appear strong in their new environment and who are ‘keeping up appearances’, it is all too easy to avoid reaching out and asking for help, even if the help is readily available.
The solution relies within proactive interaction with each individual. Reaching out to them in a confidential one to one basis and asking the question “Are you ok?”
And in my case “Do you understand the map?*”
*Map reading skills are significantly improved since secondary school!
By Gemma Bailey