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Tips for starting independent secondary school from state primary

(28 Posts)
Jinglebellsarenearlyhere Tue 06-Jan-15 13:23:27

DD will be starting secondary school in Sept 2015, she currently is in a state primary. Due to unexpected financial help she is going to independent school rather than the local comprehensive as planned. Can any one help us with extra things we may need to prepare for / think about with the twist of going private?

happygardening Tue 06-Jan-15 13:36:32

OP look at the other current thread on here about extra costs and private schools lots of good advise about purchasing uniform etc.

GetMeOut Tue 06-Jan-15 14:28:17

Has she done any languages ? It won't be expected, but prep school children will have done a lot of basic stuff from an early age so will just have more familiarity and confidence.
Also , sports; again prep schools will probably have done a lot more organized sports and matches so if she is interested it might be worth doing something extra now.

AuntieStella Tue 06-Jan-15 14:35:45

Lucky you for being the other side of admissions already!

Unless a lot of the pupils come from one or two feeder schools, it really shouldn't be much different to moving to any other secondary. Everyone is new together, and will have come from a range of schools each with their own idiosyncracies. And I'm sure your DD won't be the only one who went to a state primary.

There really isn't anything you need to do that you wouldn't do anyhow (IYSWIM). Go to all the welcome/induction events. See if you can arrange for DD to meet up with anyone joining, even if their family is known to you only in a fairly tangential way. Try to find someone with a DC already at the school and discover from them what you need to know that might not be obvious from the bumf. This is especially important if they have a uniform list the length of War and Peace but actually only ever one variation is worn in practice.

ZeroFunDame Tue 06-Jan-15 14:43:27

What sort of things were you thinking of OP?

It might be helpful if you could say what type of school she was at before (co-ed, single sex, city, rural etc...) and how the new school differs.

Also - did you actively choose this school or ...? What differences are you hoping for?

SpikeStoker Tue 06-Jan-15 16:13:40

If she likes sport then it might be worthwhile getting her into a local team as girls from preps will have done more team sport. But other than that it shouldn't really make any difference whether she has come from a prep or state primary.

Most indie schools have a varied intake at yr 7. Don't worry about where they are coming from, as once they are all at Y school they'll all be Y girls not ex-wherever girls.

It would be worth asking the school what get togethers they plan before the summer so the your DD can meet her new school mates and keep in touch over the summer. If they have a prep attached to the senior school then a few taster days might be useful.

It would also be a good idea to get in touch with existing parents if you can; the school may have coffee mornings or socials you could go to or a parents' association you can contact. This will give you the lowdown on things like only new kids have the school bookbag or everybody actually gets various items of unbadged uniform from shops other than the official one. It also might be worth doing a tour of the school on a normal day to see what the pupils actually wear eg shoe type. I wore dreadful officially sanctioned shoes for my first term at indie school, when no one else did. Ugh!

Jinglebellsarenearlyhere Tue 06-Jan-15 16:43:35

All fabulous and useful advice - thank you. In particular re connecting with parents before hand and uniform. The list is rather long!

zero. She is currently at a one form entry church school in South East London and is going ( we are moving house) to a rural mixed but used to be boys only so heavy on boys independent school that also has borders (she will be day). I guess it's more about the culture differences like as a silly example what is uncool in packed lunch I terms. I know how state education works and the pitfalls to avoid.

Any tips about what to expect as a parent would be welcome as I am panicking a bit about making a faux pas. Having said that maybe I just need a grip handed to me. As we are all human!

Lottiedoubtie Tue 06-Jan-15 16:48:06

I doubt that they take packed lunches. Every indie I've ever know is fully catered. smile

happygardening Tue 06-Jan-15 17:31:29

I wouldn't worry about making a "faux pas" most parents at secondary schools are just too busy to worry you are much less involved at secondary level. The nearest I've ever seen anyone come to a faux pas was a new mother getting out of a brand new Rolls, wearing a full length mink coat and dripping in diamonds, much to the fascination, horror and amusement of the old monied parents at DS's old prep.

nessus Tue 06-Jan-15 19:42:11

Main thing, as mentioned above, is languages - state primary Spanish/French classes will prove to have been a joke.

Maybe get into the habit of putting a little away every month for school trips. There are some amazing ones and it is great for DC's to experience as many as possible.

Expectations of teachers in terms of pupil attitude, behaviour and engagement is markedly different. Might seem obvious but can take some a few terms to find the right balance.

Pastoral care is fantastic and there is so much support available if needed.

ZeroFunDame Tue 06-Jan-15 19:50:55

Pastoral care is fantastic and there is so much support available if needed.

Well we can't be certain of that nessus. I'm sure the OP has done her best to check this but you can't know how any school will work out till you're there.

OP if it's an ambitious, selective school there may well be a strong(er) emphasis on work hard/play hard in everything. Maybe a more openly competitive ethos. But who knows, it really depends on the individual school.

MillyMollyMama Tue 06-Jan-15 20:35:39

If she is at a state school that expects good behaviour, and she is well behaved, she will have no problems fitting into an independent school. Also, don't worry about languages. Loads of the girls at my DDs independent school had done French before but my DD had not. She ended up with a place at a Oxford to do MFL. She came from a state primary with no prior MFL teaching at all! If you like it, it may well click into place. A good school will arrange for the new year 7s to meet up for tea at the school, or similar event. There is little point trying to do anything beforehand and there is bound to be a parents' association for you to meet up with other parents. My DD fitted in seamlessly and she went boarding, not day. Do they take packed lunches? That would be unusual for a school with boarders! Don't do a packed lunch if they all eat together in the refectory. That is a sure fire way to miss out on chat!

Also, don't put her down in your own mind, because a little bit of you thinks you are inferior! You are not and she is just as good as everyone else. Support the school wholeheartedly, suggest to your DD that she is enthusiastic about joining in, drama, sport, music etc, and she will have a great time and make friends for life. My DD loved boarding. It is good advice to save up for trips. When you go into the school, you will probably see pictures of where they go. I am sure she will be fine!

happygardening Tue 06-Jan-15 20:45:16

I don't know what your financial situation or those of the other parents but if there's boarders then there are likely yo be some pretty wealthy parents it just goes with the territory. Don't be intimidated if their houses, cars, gardens etc are larger than yours or feel you shouldn't invite them to your house if it's not very grand frankly few care and those that do aren't worth knowing.

BrightestAndBest Tue 06-Jan-15 21:16:11

My DD is the same school year as yours (currently year 6). She moved from state to private at the beginning of year 5 (the state system has lower/middle/upper schools here).

The main difference is the amount if commitment to the school. Sports fixtures often happen after school and at weekends (and you are expected to play if you are picked). Attendance at events like prize giving/open mornings/school fair is essentially compulsory.

There is a much more structured approach to homework too (prep diary has to be signed every day to confirm they've done it).

Don't worry about the other parents. As far as I can tell none of them really care about your car/house/holiday. (DS is a day boy at a boarding school - some of the parents have serious money, but most of them are perfectly nice even the ones who bring their son to school by helicopter at the start of each term ). Plus even the 'rich' kids tend to wear second-hand uniform.

clarexbp Tue 06-Jan-15 21:40:11

I will caveat what I'm about to say with the proviso that my experience was 30 years ago, and at a terrible school, but I transferred from state to private at 11, and it hit me like a brick. I was used to being top of the class without having to try too much, and very definitely thought that I was a bit clever, which was reinforced by getting a scholarship to this (slightly) selective private school. Within a week of arriving, my self-esteem was in shreds, and i don't think it really recovered until I was at university (and, in some ways I'm still a bit desperate to show I'm good enough...blush).

However, I really don't think that this had to be the case at all. I think that there were things that school could have done (and, I'm sure, a good school would do nowadays) and things that my parents could have done to make the transition an awful lot smoother. So, here's my list of things to check with school and things for you to consider:

School:
Are they aware that kids coming from the state system may not have covered the same things as the prep kids - particularly if this is an attached prep? For me, French and Latin were a particular nightmare - we nominally started at the beginning, but the pace was terrifically fast to accommodate the many kids who already knew a fair bit.
What do the school do to integrate kids from the state system? I had never done homework before (I doubt this would be the case now) and it took me a while to get the hang of it - but not before some seriously bad marks - I just had no idea how to sit and organise myself to do homework, or what standard was expected. Other things may seem trivial, but to an 11 year old are huge. I'd never worn a uniform before (check she can tie a tie!), I'd never moved from class to class before, never had different teachers for different subjects, never played hockey, never travelled any distance to school. It all added up to a feeling of being utterly overwhelmed and out of my depth. Thinking about what school could have done (in case any teachers are reading grin) I think that it would have been brilliant to have some extra induction sessions for kids coming from outside the system, some extra tolerance for getting lost, not having right books in right place, etc) and an understanding that some things are new to some kids but not others.
That said, maybe just a decent, child-centred pastoral care system (or indeed any pastoral care) would have done.

Parents:
My parents were completely clueless about education, and pretty 'hands off' generally. I'm guessing that your average mumsnetter wouldn't take their approach, so perhaps I'm teaching granny to suck eggs, but the following would have REALLY helped:

Helping me to do homework in the first few weeks - not with the work itself, but with getting me home (hour on a smoky bus didn't help get me in the mood) and sitting me down with a snack and a bit of encouragement.
Reassuring me that suddenly not being top of the class (and nearer to bottom in some) was not a sign that it was ALL A HORRIBLE MISTAKE and that I was in fact stupid.
Related to this - giving me a bit of a heads up that there were going to be lots of bright girls at this school, and I probably would just be average, and that this was a good thing, not a disaster. Helping me to see that many of the girls that I held up as geniuses had often had a massive head start...and worked very hard...and that if I did the same I would be fine. Instead I really just gave up.
Just a little bit more nurture in that awful first year.

But I do REALLY hope that my post has not worried you. I am quite sure that most children in this situation do very well. I didn't write this to alarm, but because I would hate to see anyone else in the situation I was in, when it is so easily avoided. Good luck to you and your daughter.

OH, and really don't worry about the parents. My DD is at a private school now, and I was worried about this too (despite having been to one) and it's fine - I have found a lovely, down to earth and totally not judgy group of parents to hang out with, and in fact, a couple of real soul mates.

earlychristmas Tue 06-Jan-15 21:41:51

Amount of homework was a lot more. However the fact that primary indep. children had more MFL was irrelevant. Dc were able to catch up pretty quickly
Certain things were a bit "strange" to dc, like standing up if another teacher came into the classroom during lessons.
Some sports were new to dc (eg hockey with real hockey stick rather than a plasic one).
All in all dc fitted in without many problems. Oh, and because dc take the schoolbus I hardly ever see other parents....

earlychristmas Tue 06-Jan-15 21:46:27

Reading Clare's post I'm not sure how many changes were due to differences from state to indep and how many due to differences from primary to secondary school, from small school to bigger school . Oh, and indeed difference from 30 years ago to now.....

clarexbp Tue 06-Jan-15 21:56:28

Yes Early, I do think that was a large part of it, and that, hopefully, schools deal with the transition much better generally. However, I think it was, and possibly still is, slightly easier for the kids from prep schools and I wish that someone had taken the time to explain that to me at the time (I just thought they were all amazing and I was rubbish!)

ZeroFunDame Tue 06-Jan-15 21:59:09

I'd agree to some extent early.

My own experience (quite a bit more than 30 years ago) of state to private probably wouldn't help. (The pace and seriousness of Latin was the major academic difference.)

But the biggest difference I've seen now is between a smallish "local" (non boarding) private junior school and an unarguably top of the range boarding prep. The gap between the two is immense.

MillyMollyMama Tue 06-Jan-15 21:59:34

My DD had virtually never done homework before - only self guided projects, had to organise herself every day for lessons and not have my assistance with homework because she boarded. She had never been in a science lab before or done a minute of French, let alone DT or hockey and tennis. She did it all. She was near the top. Not all schools do Latin as a compulsory subject. Don't assume state school pupils are inferior. My DD was just as good as everyone else and she was the only one from a state school in her year group. People will have different experiences but it is best to be positive. Many parents do meet up at sports/drama/music events and I would go to everything where your DD is involved. It is a better experience that way.

Jinglebellsarenearlyhere Tue 06-Jan-15 23:17:53

Food for thought. I thnk the big thing I have taken away is to make sure DD knows things may be a bit different, like the standing up if an adult comes in but to reassure her she will learn the ropes. And to carry on with my preperations as planned such as organisation etc etc. academics are not such an issue as school is selective but supportive and she currently is average - new school have said that year 7 is all about filling gaps and bringing all kids to same (as much as one can) level of knowledge. Have also decided to see if I can expose her to to some of the sports they play so she isnot a complete novice. And of course you are all right - lunch is provided and is a full on meal!!!!!! Thank you all so much for your wise words.

MillyMollyMama Wed 07-Jan-15 18:02:48

My DDs both went to very expensive, academic, girls' boarding schools. They did not stand up when a teacher came in the room! They went to school in South Africa for a term when they were 13 - they did that there! Why don't you look around the school on a working day to see how formal or informal the teaching is? This is the best way to find out. The South African exchange girls were astounded that the girls here did not hold doors open for teachers or stand up when one entered the room. However, our schools did not have "hard labour" as punishment and had entered the 21st century! Things will be different for lots of the children depending upon their previous schooling, day or boarding, setting in subjects, sport etc. Your DD will be fine. If they play lacrosse, she will get the hang if it, likewise hockey or athletics. No-one arrives at senior school the finished article. Learning new things in a friendly but challenging environment is a good thing.

twentyten Fri 09-Jan-15 08:38:14

Could you attend any concerts/ plays etc at the school to give you all a feel of the place? Any more open days etc they have? Do they run summer camps?

3nationsfamily Fri 09-Jan-15 10:42:30

If she is a day pupil at a boarding school, then expect long days! At my DS school they are in school 8am to 8pm (yr 9) which includes all sport, extra curricular activities, lunch and dinner and homework. They also have Saturday morning school then rugby and once a month church service on a Sunday morning. So essentially the day boys just come home to sleep! It makes it very difficult to do any activities outside of school or see old friends except during the (long) holidays. From a childcare point of view the longer holidays are also a big difference from State school and for younger pupils this can be difficult or expensive to cover.
However, overall we were very happy with how the school managed the transition and DS is really thriving and making the most of the opportunities.

Jinglebellsarenearlyhere Fri 09-Jan-15 12:48:19

More tips thank you! Yes day finishes at 5 and possibly later - part of why we like the school to be honest. DD is an only child ( not by our choice) and both me and DH work. The thought of her being on her own after school upsets me. I went to boarding school and am used to having lots of people around. I can't entertain the idea of DD actually boarding so this seemed a good compromise (amongst other benefits).

Question about childcare - Am panicking about logistics of holiday childcare as she has not really enjoyed those camps. What do other working parents do?

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