Life as a high school mum is very different to being a mum of a primary school mum. Not worse, just different. Although I suppose it depends what you’re expecting vs what you get.
The primary school years
I was hoping that after 4 years in key stage 2, doing well and being super organised and diligent, that N would be capable of being pretty independent at high school. Nope. It seems he’s regressed.
At primary I didn’t need to organise much. Yes, I got out his uniform most evenings because otherwise he’d take ages in the mornings. But otherwise he got his packed lunch made, sorted out his homework without too many asks. And always had his bag packed.
It was a long summer off – 7 ½ weeks for N with primary school inset days at the end of summer term and inset days for secondary in September. But N seems to have lost all his urgency to be organised.
Life as a high school mum is definitely different.
The transition to secondary school
I wasn’t sure how long it would take for N to settle in and find his way around, but he’s been getting on well. As a parent, that’s the main thing you want them to get right so they can enjoy their high school years.
Here’s some of the differences you need to get to with children moving up to secondary school.
Differences in becoming a high school mum
Going off to high school means as a parent we’re less likely to meet or know their friendship groups. We need to learn to trust that children have learnt enough to pick their friends well. And that they’re getting themselves to school on time.
Secondary school means they have to learn responsibility. For school work, homework, for being suitably dressed, to be on time. Luckily our primary school worked up to making our children independent about their work and organisation, which has probably made it easier.
Something I struggle with. At primary school homework had to be done in 2 days. At high school they might work on a 2 weekly timetable, so homework may not need to be handed in for 2 or more weeks. Getting a child to do homework when it’s set rather than leaving it until nearer the deadline is frustrating for a parent.
But it’s their choice, and what they need to learn. We can just give them guidance and advice and hope they take it.
At secondary school, you’ll be lucky to hear the names of friends. Rarely will you know where they’re from, more details about who they are, and you may never meet them. When you’re used to being invited into primary school frequently, and may know children from across the school, in high school you may never meet your child’s friends.
It can also take a while for them to make friends. Gradually you hear more frequent mentions of a few children, and hopefully yours makes a nice group of friends to go through the school with.
5. Social media
Thankfully mine doesn’t seem too fussed about getting on social media, so he just has Whatsapp. Having a phone before starting secondary school helps them get any silliness out of their system and used to use it. But you need to make a decision on social media before they start.
However much we trust our children, you need to ensure you’re open to them coming to you with any worries or concerns. And let them know you’ll monitor their phone and conversations. You can use this as education about how to react, what to share, and how to support others or step in where behaviour is not acceptable.
You want to be able to nip any issues in the bud, and so much nowadays happens over social media or messaging. Keep the lines of communication open with teachers if there are issues too, because when you don’t know the other children or parents, you have to trust the school will do something about it.
Most secondary schools have cashless systems set up for the canteen. Some allow children to go overdrawn, others may stop children spending if they haven’t got credit in their account. So it’s a case of setting up alerts, getting all those apps set up, and checking in regularly.
I’ve heard of lots of people saying their children have racked up huge bills, with their accounts in debt only a few weeks in. And another parent saying her child had been refused food because she was slightly in debt. It sounds like other friends step in to agree to get food for friends when needed.
We’ve had conversations about what is or isn’t acceptable to buy given he’s actually having packed lunches all but one day. Buying breakfast or food at break as well isn’t great when you can take healthier snacks from home. But the fact there’s exciting food in front of them which is effectively ‘free’ being paid for by a fingerprint
It’s definitely another thing to keep monitoring until they’re well on their way and capable of standing up for what they believe in and avoiding any potential bad experiences.
7. Unsavoury goings on
One thing (coming froma small rural primary school anyway), you’re not prepared for is the more unsavoury goings on that you hear about. Yes you hear about schools with metal detectors, and drug problems, or bullying. But talking to friends, I’ve already heard about knives being found in one school; county drugs lines targeting in another which means regular police talks and a lot of focus for vulnerable children. There’s been fights on buses, mentions of what we’d class as bullying and within year groups. It seems you just can’t ignore it all goes on.
We’ve had regular conversations about various goings on, and hopefully N’s been gaining confidence in how to deal with things as they come up. Thankfully he seems pretty matter of fact about what he’d do, and aims to avoid anything he doesn’t want to get involved with.
I think maybe I’m more wary than he is.
Maybe it’s his innocence that’s still there.
Maybe it’s me waiting for something to go wrong when it won’t.
Maybe he’ll cruise through secondary school, enjoying it, and just getting on with things.
It’s certainly an adjustment a a mum.
What have you found different in the move to secondary school?