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Taking the sting out of starting a new school

Monday 17 January 2022

Taking the Sting Out of Starting A New School

St Joseph’s College Ipswich values the happiness of every student – from Nursery to Sixth Form. Its outstanding pastoral care ensures every individual is known and cared about. Provision includes dedicated tutors, a highly qualified safeguarding team, the College Nurse and Counsellor, and a Wellbeing Hub. Happy children are ready to learn and thrive, writes Kathryn Maclean, St Joseph’s Pastoral Support Assistant.

Starting a new school, especially mid-way through a school year, is one of the most daunting experiences a young person can face.  A survey by mental health charity YoungMinds highlighted the concerns:

  • finding the work difficult, or having problems concentrating
  • feeling pressure to get good exam results 
  • difficult relationships with friends and friendship groups 
  • finding school exhausting, especially if they are dealing with mental health issues 
  • not feeling accepted or that they ‘fit in’ 
  • not getting on with teachers
  • feeling pressured to be the same and learn like everyone else 
  • experiencing or witnessing bullying - feeling unsupported
  • additional needs such as dyslexia not being recognised
  • feeling average or no good in a class of high achieving peers

Parents hope to alleviate children’s worries by investing time in choosing the best school for them, but, even so, children may find the transition difficult. Encourage them to be open about their feelings.  It can take young people a term – or even longer - to settle in and find their ‘group’.  Contact the school’s pastoral team or Head of Year if you have worries. What you hear at home is not necessarily replicated within school, and your child may well have settled in better than they have let you know.  Communication is key.

The new school should provide a ‘buddy’, tasked with welcoming your child and explaining how everything works. The right buddy can do much to mitigate anxiety in the early days. 

As well as a change in peers, your child may have to adapt to unfamiliar teaching styles and a new school ethos.  Encourage them to throw themselves into their new experience and opportunities. Focusing on the positives can help alleviate fears, but don’t ignore concerns from your child. Contact the school to see what support, if any, is required and can be offered. 

Schools should be proactive in combatting bullying; read their policy. Children will witness bullying, or be victim of it, at some point in their school life - how the school reacts is crucial. Does it actively educate against bullying and respond to any incidents?  Talk to your child regularly.  Are there any indications to suggest things are amiss?  If you’re concerned, speak to the school. 

Our children are resilient.  It is to be expected they will make mistakes as they navigate their way round a new school, but learning from mistakes is part of life. How we react as parents will help them process what is happening to them.  Encouragement and regular conversations ensure your child knows they have you behind them. Dig deeper if something doesn’t feel right. 

Schools want their pupils to be successful and gain the right qualifications to move on to the next step, and a happy student in the right environment will always thrive.