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Children starting secondary in September 2013; support & hand-holding, tips and advice...

(135 Posts)
ThreeBeeOneGee Fri 22-Feb-13 20:58:13

This is a thread for those of us with children who are starting secondary in September 2013; nerve-racking enough even when a child doesn't have SEN.

Hopefully we can give each other support and encouragement.

It would also be great to get some advice and tips from parents who have already seen children through this; what do you wish you had known etc?

ThreeBeeOneGee Sat 23-Feb-13 08:39:36

AGlassHalfEmptyNoLonger: thank you for the thread link. Off to read it now and take notes.

AttilaTheMeerkat Sat 23-Feb-13 09:56:21

Some things that helped us when starting Y7:-

Lots of visiting school beforehand and finding way around. Some secondary schools can be massive and these children move around school all day long.
Making yourselves known to the SENCO in advance of starting secondary and putting faces to names.
Finding out also who their Student Pastoral support person is; this person can be very useful if there are problems (have found this person just as if not more useful than form tutor)
Student may well be issued with a planner; this can also be used by you to record progress or problems
As Coppertop has also mentioned, ascertain school policy on mobile phones.
Have all uniform to hand and labelled; stuff also goes walkabout in secondary as well.
Decent sized backpack for items. Some days we have cookery as well as PE!.
Ensure as far as possible that planner does not go missing; parents have to pay for a lost planner.

With regards to what MerryCouthyMows wrote earlier:-

"If your DC has issues writing quickly or clearly - ask the SenCo if there is an LSA available to help write homework in planners. You can't help them to be organised with homework if you have no idea that they have any, and if there IS something basic written down (for the first two years, DD often just wrote 'maths home' or 'science home', and then had no clue WHAT the homework was, or when it was to be done by...)".

This is extremely important and bears repeating, also teachers need to be aware of this if your child has such issues with writing. One of DS's peers had a problem writing homework in the planner as the TAs (different one for each lesson) did not do this (this child did not have a statement and was on school action plus). Parent could not decipher planner and child ended up getting detentions. In my experience of DS's particular secondary SA plus means bugger all and this child's Y7 was hard going too as a result. That particular issue only properly resolved itself when a statement was granted.

Secondary schools in this area do CAT tests soon after entry into Y7; it may well be they who decide to get a statement application going if child is going in there without a statement (this has happened to some of DS's friends).

Ineedmorepatience Sat 23-Feb-13 10:12:28

Another lurker, Dd3 is not going until next year but wanted to add, when Dd1 went I colour coded her books with those little round stickers. Each day of the week had a different colour, I stuck them inside the front cover of her books and on her timetable. Some books like english and maths had several dots on.

It worked really well and she actually learned her timetable really quickly (aspie style memory).

Dd2 wouldnt let me do her books and actually she struggled all through school with remembering her timetable (or maybe she just didnt care!)

I am sticking around to read all the great tips, ready for next year, although I cant see how we can possibly get Dd3 ready in a year and a half. Emotionally she is about 8. I am dreading itsad

troutsprout Sat 23-Feb-13 10:56:37

Ds is in year 11 now . In all honesty , secondary has been loads easier than primary. Ds says Primary was 'like a zoo' . Secondary is organised and routine based. It provides much relief for a boy whose main worry is 'not knowing what will happen'
Things that helped when he first started:

3 visits organised by senco on run up to starting. Ds followed a dummy timetable and was introduced to quiet areas he might like to use.

Ds's timetable was block coloured to match colour of books ... So a subject was assigned a colour. Books for that subject put into zip lock folders (he didn't like the idea of stickers after a bit)

Phone and key on a stretchy lanyard attached to a loop in his rucksack. Ds walks to school with a friend who knocks on for him. Phone is allowed in their bags on silent . I phone or text him after school sometimes if he is late.
Oooh ! but Last week he texted me to say he would be late home as he had a gcse geography revision session. I was soo happy and gobsmacked that he had thought to let me know that I was giddy with happiness and phoned my friends to tell them grin. I know it's a small thing ... But the thought behind it is a big thing for ds.

Planner...TA or teacher to check planner to make sure homework written down at first. TA used to use planner to send home messages about trips/ money etc. I could do the same back

If he had to remember something important , TA suggested him wearing a band around his wrist to remind himself. We had a lot of success with this. If she saw it she asked him about it.

The library computer area is the spectrummy kids hang out. They seemed to gravitate towards each other at secondary... Similar interests I guess.

Errrm...I'll think on ...see if I can think of other tips for you guys

ThreeBeeOneGee Sat 23-Feb-13 12:04:38

I had to colour code the subjects for DS1 (no additional needs, just lacking in organisational skills and inherently absent minded). I then printed a school timetable with the subjects in their colours (the timetable provided by the school seemed to be in code and was very hard to read) and he had the books for each subject in a colour-coded tough ziplock bag. Now he's in Y8, he can manage without the bags.

DS2 will have his timetable memorised (along with the room numbers) after seeing it once. grin

That is so reassuring about some things being easier at secondary. At his primary school, all DS2 wants to do is read in the library, and he hates having to wander around the playground trying not to get picked on or get into trouble. At the school he's (hopefully) going to, he'll have the choice of going to the library, various geeky clubs, or the friendly learning support base.

eggandcress Sat 23-Feb-13 12:56:32

I love this thread and I am waiting hungrily for the next post.
Thank you so much for all the tips!

There are lots of great tips on organisation - my dd has very poor executive skills and will need masses of support with this

ImStickingWithYou Sat 23-Feb-13 15:06:08

I am a regular reader of MNSN and have decided to de-lurk for this thread. My DS starts at secondary this september and I am very nervous about it. We already know where he is going and it is named on his statement.
When do they next contact you to organise transition etc? We are in a difficult situation, DS is at an independent school at moment so we have had a struggle to get a statement but we finally managed it last week but the statement doesn't come into force until september (due to the pain of a school he is in now not being able to meet the needs). Will he still get the whole transition process? The secondary school know he is coming and have a copy of his statement.

ThreeBeeOneGee Sat 23-Feb-13 15:54:31

Hi, ImStickingWithYou, DS2 doesn't have a statement, but the head of learning support at the secondary school gave us the impression that he would be included in the transition programme for those with additional needs. I think the visits usually start in May / June, but it varies depending on the needs of the child.

mumslife Sat 23-Feb-13 19:56:10

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

coppertop Sat 23-Feb-13 21:08:43

Most communication with ds' school is done via e-mail to his Form Tutor. It's a good idea to find out early on what their name is and their e-mail address. Ds couldn't remember what his tutor was called - even though he saw them 5 times a week. confused

They will usually have at least one lunchtime club that's somewhere for the Yr7s to hang out. Ds also loves spending time in the school library. This was a miracle new thing for him as he used to see reading as a bit of a chore.

Deciding whether to take a packed lunch or have school dinners is also an important thing to sort out early on:

If they're taking a packed lunch, find out in advance where they are allowed to eat it. Ds hates the crowded dining hall but they are also allowed to eat out in the playground and in some of the club rooms.

If they're having school lunches then try to find out what the system is at your school. Most now seem to have a cashless card system or even a fingerprint scanning system, which means there's less chance of losing money. Again make sure they know what to do if they forget/lose their card.

Sign up for Parentmail asap to reduce the chances of letters home being lost. The school website may also have a students' area that they sign in to. Depending on the school, this may include things like assignments set, attendance/lateness levels, and even current academic levels. Make a copy of your child's log-in details asap.

trace2 Sat 23-Feb-13 21:53:54

can we join please ds starts in sept to only put one school down but dont think we will get in he not got statement ! in our area we have new super schools only been built two years and the local one is failing , when we went looking round at all the schools ds picked a catholic ,/ church of england school as he said others either smelt, or he dint like the set up and the catholic school is smaller , but i dont think he will get in as we live further away! dreading 1st marchsad ds as AS, ADHD

ThreeBeeOneGee Sun 24-Feb-13 00:10:03

Hi trace2, my DS2 has AS and ADHD too.

mumslife, I agree, although I've seen DS1 through secondary transition, that was simpler as he doesn't have additional needs.

Penneyanne Sun 24-Feb-13 16:00:36

Hi everyone,I think I might join in here also.I started this thread a while back and found it helpful also if anyone wants a look

NoHaudinMaWheest Sun 24-Feb-13 16:30:28

My Ds is now yr 11 so I thought I might put in some things I found helpful when he started at secondary. On the whole secondary has been much easier than primary was. He has Asperger's, severe OCD and dyslexia. He had a statement when he started but went from Link Education to secondary as his primary placement had broken down. I think this actually helped as secondary were very aware of his vulnerability.

Some things that really helped were:
Having someone to go to when things went wrong. In his case it was the head of the unit he was attached to as he made a good relationship with her but it could equally well be form teacher, TA, head of year. I also found it helpful to go to her with problems and she usually sorted them out. I do think this person was exceptional but it is worth trying to find out the most helpful member of staff and using them as a link person. It also helps if they have some 'clout' in the school.

The school had a scheme whereby any student who needed their uniform modifed for any reason carried a card which they could show to any member of staff who questioned them. My Ds couldn't tuck his shirt in for OCD reasons so carried a card which said 'DS is allowed to leave his shirt untucked.'
They also issued cards for other reasons. Ds had one which allowed him to leave class and go to the unit when he was stressed and Dd who is currently using crutches has a pass allowing her to use the lift.
If the school doesn't have this system it might be worth suggesting it as it is simple and effective.

If you are still at the stage of choosing a school I would say that the overall attitude and willingness to adapt are far more important than any specific facilities.
It might also pay to think laterally. The unit my Ds is attached to is actually aimed at students with physical disabilities but it has helped him enormously.
He goes to mainstream classes (actually all the students there do) but uses the unit as a support and socialising base. Of course you also have to find a school willing to think flexibly but this unit was ideal for my Ds who didn't really fit anywhere else.

ThreeBeeOneGee Sun 24-Feb-13 17:02:29

Thanks Penneyanne, I don't know how I managed to miss that one!

Penneyanne Sun 24-Feb-13 17:32:55

AGlassHalfEmpty I have just spent an hour reading that thread from last year you linked to-its brilliantly helpful smile. I must have missed it because it was in secondary education.ThreeBee this is a very helpful thread and will be great to keep it ongoing until September.My ds is also starting in september.I am planning on doing a very short profile and laminating one for each teacher so that,at a glance,each teacher can skim-read points like...ds name needs to be said each time if addressing him,one instruction only,needs to sit at front,takes everything literally,messages/notes need to be written down,will need help organising himself etc.
Its very helpful chatting to so many others going through the same experience.This thread will be invaluable.Thanks ThreeBee

troutsprout Mon 25-Feb-13 08:12:18

Penney...Ds's Senco asked me for personal tips ( things i had done with him or had success with plus specific things likely to cause him anxiety) She added it to a list of more general reminders for the staff about dealing with someone on the spectrum . They have all had training..She gave a copy to every teacher and TA he had .

troutsprout Mon 25-Feb-13 08:20:23

Another thing.
One big rucksack is better than multiple bags for P.e or food tech. Less likely to lose stuff.
Ds has one with 3 compartments. One for Pe kit, then middle section for books/ planner / pencil case and there is a front section for key and phone on lanyard.
He has a lunch card that he puts money onto on the days he has school dinners ( same days as pe to lighten the load). Lunch card is always in his blazer pocket. I think he's lost it once in 5 years ... Which is pretty amazing (lol .. For him)

Ilisten2theradio Mon 25-Feb-13 17:45:48

ThreeBeeOneGee We did lots of trial runs to the school on a Saturday morning ( it helped that he went there anyway for trampolining lessons), so he had to take us as it were.
As others have also said, make sure that there are extra visits included in your transition planning. Ds went 3 or 4 times - only one of these was with the whole year on the day that they visit their new school. His Ta took him ( from school - they walked!) and so did I. If they think a child needs it they can do many extra visits.
Getting a locker was important for my (AS) very disorganised DS. As is a keyring with a spiral stretchy lanyard so it can be tied in his bag and never has to be detatched.
I ignored the "no phones" rule - just like most parents TBH, and DS has it on silent in his bag - but he called me when he got on the wrong bus to tell me where he was and ask how to get back home.

One big rucksack is good - try to get one with hip straps if they will wear them - much better for the back.

Get a copy of the timetable yourself ( DS has a complicated 2 wk timetable) and put a copy on the wall in your DCs room and keep one yourself.

Keep checking the homework planner --other messages get put in there too.
Find out who is the Key TA for your child. Make contact with them, talk to them if necessary - or e-mail they usually are great if you can engage.

Name everything several times - write names in the pockets too.
Buy extra sports socks - you will need them.
Hope you don't go through 3 winter coats in a month like I did ( well we still have no 3.....)

High school is better for having places to escape at lunch - the library It chess clubs etc etc.

moosemama Mon 25-Feb-13 22:48:55

Just catching up on the thread. Have been in bed with the killer migraine from hell since last Friday evening.

Ds has his interview with the head of the school we want him to go to tomorrow and I am so nervous. I feel sick and am actually shaking. sad

Dh spoke to the LEA today and they said they have been calling but the admissions officer from the school isn't returning their calls. That got me stressed about whether they're not telling the truth and haven't been chasing the school at all - or worse the school is stalling them, which must mean there's a question mark over whether or not they'll take him.

Poor ds is so scared about tomorrow, he's been all over the place today and we've had lots of tears this evening. In truth, all he wants is go to the academy up the road with all his friends and it breaks my heart that I can't make that happen for him. sad

It's seeming more and more likely that all his friends will know their placements before he does, unless a miracle happens and the school we are seeing tomorrow offer him a place there and then.

Dh is wandering around asking me whether or not we can get his statement cancelled and just try to get him into the Academy that way and I know where he's coming from. If we'd left him on SA+ he would have been guaranteed a place, so it feels like we have really let him down by getting the statement. I really can't believe this is happening - the whole point of getting the statement was to ensure he could go to the local school, but in reality it had the opposite effect.

In my heart I know he'd never survive a huge ms secondary like the one up the road (1200 pupils), but part of me feels bad that we haven't even given him the chance.

I don't think I'm going to be sleeping tonight.

MareeyaDolores Mon 25-Feb-13 23:45:10

Ah listen, if you were rich he'd be at prep school for another 2 years with small classes and lots of extra tuition etc while getting ready for a posh high school. You might end up replicating this (well, maybe not the posh school bit wink). If the mainstreams won't take him now and he does well at indie SS, the lea will remove the statement and bung him into MS soon enough.

ThreeBeeOneGee Tue 26-Feb-13 07:25:59

Hope all goes well today moosemama.

AttilaTheMeerkat Tue 26-Feb-13 07:50:03


Am keeping my fingers crossed for you today as well.

Do not get that statement cancelled. You fought too long and too damn hard to let that go now.

(Was wondering if infact this academy has acted unlawfully by refusing to take statemented children; am sure IPSEA and the like have come across this type of scenario).

Think you're right; your son would never have survived that big impersonal secondary school with it being an academy to boot. Academies can be bad news for children who need additional help and support and SA plus at secondary means bugger all (well it certainly does where I live). I would personally not send my child anywhere that did not want him with his statement because it says an awful lot about their attitude as well.

My best wishes to you all.

MaryBS Tue 26-Feb-13 08:03:30

Thanks ThreeBeeOneGee for telling me about this thread.

DS has Asperger Syndrome, but no statement. He should get into the same school as his sister, but I am worried about the school bus journey for him, as the noise levels on that bus are horrendous! Am even considering driving them both in...

troutsprout Tue 26-Feb-13 08:22:13

Hope today goes well for all who are waiting to hear.

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