How your child develops in Key Stage 3

Secondary school girl with stack of books
As your child moves from primary to secondary school, what changes can you expect in their behaviour?

It seems like only yesterday that you were kissing your child goodbye at the door of the reception classroom, but now they’re making the big transition to secondary school. It’s a time of many changes for your child as they gets used to being a small fish in a big pond, and learns to handle the new and very different structure of secondary school life. So how can you expect them to develop throughout Year 7?

What’s going on in there?

Your Year 7 child is:

  • trying hard to conform to their peers’ values, and to be part of the ‘in crowd.’
  • reassessing their moral values in relation to other children’s.
  • experiencing lots of worries and insecurities relating to the transition to secondary school.
  • very critical of adults, and parents in particular, seeming to have little respect for your rules, values and decisions.
  • entering, or in the middle of, puberty, coping with body changes and hormones.
  • sometimes angry, resentful and rebellious, particularly at home.
  • likely to be melodramatic and exaggerates for effect: ‘Everyone else’s mum lets them go to town on their own…’
  • keen to join clubs and try new activities.
  • competitive and interested in sports and team games.
  • interested in fashion, music and TV.
  • still happiest socialising with the same sex, but beginning to be inquisitive about the opposite sex.

Potential pressure points

The move to secondary school is a big pressure point for your Key Stage 3 child. Not only do they have to get to grips with a new school, new routines and a new style of teaching, but they’re also having to get to know a different peer group and integrating old friendships with new ones. For the first time, they have to remember which books to take to school each day and which classroom to get to at a particular time.

On top of all this, they’re coping with the physical and emotional changes of puberty, and also feeling the need to keep up with their peers in terms of fashion, freedom and possessions. “They’re now a young adult rather than a child, but still needs plenty of advice, guidance and non-judgemental listening from you,” says chartered educational psychologist Julia Busch Hansen.

Warning signs to watch out for

Pre-teen mood swings can make it hard to spot whether your child is genuinely stressed or simply hormonal, so it’s important to tune into the behavioural clues that may suggest they’re under stress. These include sleeplessness, tearfulness or aggression, concerns about their body image, overeating or dieting, becoming withdrawn and spending a lot of time alone, making excuses not to go to school, and possibly even self-harming.

“Communication with school is vital at this stage, especially if there are problems,” says chartered educational psychologist and educational adviser Susan Brooks. “Make sure that you’re clear on how to communicate with your child’s form tutor and subject teachers so you can support them through the transition to secondary school.”