5 things you need to do before starting secondary school

Child in school uniform
Get your child prepared for their first day of secondary school with these top tips extracted from A Parent’s Guide to Secondary School by Kim Thomas.

1. Buy school uniform

The school should have provided you with a uniform list, but if not it will probably be available on the school’s website or you can call them. Remember that as well as skirts, trousers, tops and so on, you will need to buy shoes and socks in the right colour. Uniform will usually also include a PE kit and possibly some gear, such as shin pads, hockey sticks or lacrosse sticks, too.

Buying the whole kit and caboodle can be expensive, so if you’re struggling ask at the school if they have a second-hand sale. Uniforms can sell out quickly, so it’s a good idea to buy everything at the beginning of the summer. But buy shoes later because there’s every chance that your child will have grown a shoe size by the end of the holidays!

2. Make sure they know how to wear it

If the uniform requires a tie, make sure your child knows how to do it up. “Reduce any anxiety you possibly can by pre-empting it,” says child psychologist Ruth Coppard. So practise during the holidays until they are confident.

3. Pick up essential stationery

You will probably have a list of required stationery from the school that includes pens, pencils, compasses, rulers and protractors. Your child will probably need a scientific calculator, too. You may be able to buy some of the equipment cheaply from the school; if not, some of the bigger supermarkets sell kits at a good price.

Our complete secondary school stationery checklist provides you with a comprehensive shopping list!

4. Fill in relevant forms

The school will send you forms that need to be completed before term starts. These will include fairly routine ones to do with data protection and whether your child needs a locker etc. They may also include forms asking about your child’s special circumstances, such as whether they have special needs, or whether they’ve experienced a recent bereavement. There’s often a waiting list to learn a musical instrument, so if your child wants to take one up now is a good time to apply if you receive a form about it.

5. Apply for a bus pass

If your child is taking public transport or planning to travel on a school bus, you’ll need to apply for a pass or a place on the bus. In London, your child will need an 11-15 Zip Oyster photocard (some London schools also use the Oyster card as a cashless system to pay for meals in school). It’s worth applying for any passes early, as forms can take weeks to process.

And finally!

The day before school starts, do a final rundown. Have you got the uniform ready? Is the bag packed? Have you checked what time school starts and finishes? Have you packed a lunch or given your child money for school dinner? Have you put out bus money for them? Being well prepared will help your child to feel more confident about that daunting first day and it will give you peace of mind, too.