From uniforms to rules, phones to friends, this back-to-school checklist will truly help kids who are getting ready for secondary school.
The jump from primary to secondary school is a life lesson in itself. At just 11 years old, many kids in the UK have to find ways to obey a new set of rules, catch public transport, order off a menu and make a whole new set of friends. Are your children feeling daunted? Maybe they haven’t even thought about it too much. Well, at NatWest Rooster Money, we’ve got your back with tips for starting secondary school. You can ping them over this list, and help them get full marks on that first day of term.
Check the school’s policy on phones
Almost all kids will want to use a mobile phone at school, and almost all schools will have rules in place to prevent inappropriate uses. Some insist on phones being off during certain hours; others allow the use of phones in certain lessons; in many schools there will be clear rules around phone confiscation too. Check with your chosen secondary school, and run though the rules before the first day.
Read through the rest of the school rules too (or as many of them as you can)
Today, many secondary schools don’t have a simple set of school rules, but a series of policies, covering everything from bullying to CCTV use. You can try to read through all of them before going to school, but you could end up getting bogged down. Maybe skim over the ones that seem important to you, such as one describing expected behaviour; that document usually covers the kind of stuff you’d expect to find a traditional list of school rules. Share this with your soon-to-be-year-7…
Double check the school uniform regulations, and get clothes and shoes ready sooner rather than later
You might assume this would be one rule for all, but they can change from one year group to another. Some schools ban make-up among younger year groups, while others have special regulations around shoes, trouser styles, smart watches, jewellery, piercings and hair dye.
Once you know what you need, make sure things like shoes are purchased a few weeks, or even months in advance; you’ll get a better selection and price if you give yourself a little time. Some secondary schools will mandate blazers, which can be pricey. Second-hand uniforms are often an option, too. But given they’re limited, you need to get in quick or ask around friends to be able to get hold of them.
Get ready digitally
You can also use your phone to take a picture of timetables, add crucial contact numbers, and join any student or parental WhatsApp groups, which is often the best way to get quick answers.
Again, a tracking app might be a good way for kids to know their parents are watching over them, and for mums and dads to monitor their children’s progress to and from school. Choosing to use these kinds of apps is of course all down to how you feel about them as a parent and a family.
Plenty of secondary schools also have parent and child portals, and online learning facilities. You could take a quick look at this before term starts, and maybe check logins, as these services can be quite clunky.
Get ready IRL!
Nevermind phones and laptops, you’ll also need to make sure that in real life, uniform and PE kids are sorted as well as any essential new pencil case additions; perhaps get a keyring for locker keys and front door keys (you may also want to copy their locker key, in case it gets lost).
Some kids can try to sneak in extra, nice, expensive items at this point; decide whether this is a want or a need, and if a flashy new backpack or water bottle should really come out of pocket money, set up a Goal in the Rooster Money app.
At home, you may also want to buy a lot of different coloured folders to file away different school documents, a timetable printed out and stuck to the fridge, a big box by the front door for book bags and PE kit, and maybe even set up a good homework station (which can just be a decent desk in a bedroom).
Just before school starts
Work out a route to school, a way to get there, and maybe even a group of friends to travel with
Secondary schools are usually bigger than primary schools, and tend to serve a larger area, which means kids often have to travel a little further. Work out the route before the term starts, and maybe decide whether it’ll be a parent-and-child trip each morning or not; a lot of kids prefer to go to secondary school on their own. You can try to get this in place before the start of term, but also this might be something you’ll work up to after the first week or so.
Some schools have specific policies on bringing bikes, so check in advance of the big day. If you can’t find a good way to get to school, check on help with home-to-school transport from the government, and if your child is taking public transport to school, consider getting a Rooster Card; our prepaid debit card is an easy way to pay on the bus, train, tram or tube. Just make sure there’s enough money ready to spend on the card before each journey; if there isn’t, it may not work.
Talk through going to secondary school
For children, secondary schools can be daunting. Primary schools offer lots of structure and support, while at secondary schools, kids have to manage their own days. At primary, most kids will have remained in one class room for the majority of their lessons; at secondary, they will have to get to lots of different rooms. There’s also more choice, when it comes to lunch, break and extracurricular activities. Parents too, can feel anxious about their child thriving, and being happy at school. Elder brothers and sisters, or friends can offer support, as they will have been through the whole experience before. Divorced parents, who share term-time custody of their kids will really need to chat things through, to make sure they’re both on the same page.
Maybe set aside an evening, just to talk through everything. Kids may think it’s unnecessary, but they will probably be grateful to have the opportunity to air any fears. Having some of their favourite snacks to hand might help get them away from gaming!
Think about lunch and snacks
At secondary school, there’s a lot more choice in the canteen and costs of meals vary, from a pound or two for a panini to closer to £5 for a full meal. Lots of schools have dedicated payment systems, and you may need to pay into these before the start of term. If the school accepts debit cards, a Rooster Card could well be the way to go.
Whatever system is in place, you might think about the healthiness of these meals. Some school dinners are healthy, and some aren’t. The walk to and from school also offers kids the opportunity to buy snacks and hang out with friends in cafes.
Once a new routine is in place, maybe have a chat about what a good or bad diet looks like, why some foods taste good in the moment, but make you feel crummy afterwards, and why cutting down on sugar, fat and processed meat, and going big on vegetables, fruits and whole grains is a good idea in the long run.
Have a good day (and a good night’s sleep) before the big day
Most secondary schools offer induction days for new pupils, making the beginning of term a bit easier for new kids. Nevertheless, it’s probably wise to have a good, active day, and an early, solid night’s sleep before the first day of term, so this new start goes as well as possible.
Switch off screens as early as you can, check through the school bag one last time, and lay out the uniform for the morning.
Just after school has started
Check out the school’s clubs
A lot of secondary schools offer great lunchtime and afterschool clubs. They’re a great opportunity to try out new sports, or other pursuits, and you don’t have to join immediately, or even stick with it if it doesn’t feel like a good fit. Encourage them to try a few out, and see what sticks.
Talk through feels about having joined a new school
Again, it’s probably worth having a chat once the first couple of weeks have passed to see how secondary school is going (time to bring those top tier snacks out once more!) Kids may have found their expectations haven’t quite met the reality of their new school, while parents might find some of their pre-term anxieties were ill-founded. Still, it’s good to check in, as it’s a big change for everyone.