It might seem like only yesterday that you were buying your child’s first-ever pair of school shoes, but now the end of their primary-school journey is approaching. Before you know it, they’ll be making the big move to secondary school, and your life will enter a whole new phase.
Here are the truths you discover during your child’s last year of primary school. How many have you experienced so far?
1. Choosing your child’s primary school was a walk in the park compared to picking the right secondary school. Not only do you have to consider things like GCSE results and university destinations, but now your child has an opinion – argh!
2. Letting your child walk to school by themselves for the first time is nothing short of terrifying. Can you trust them to look both ways before they cross the road? And would they ever forgive you if you followed behind them at 50 paces?
3. Regulation school uniform is a thing of the past now that you know that nothing happens if your child turns up at school in a plain polo shirt instead of an expensive crested one, so it’s supermarket uniform all the way.
4. As for name tapes, you haven’t sewn one on in years. Life’s too short when a Sharpie works just as well.
5. If you thought homework was a struggle before, think again… With your child preparing for SATs, every night seems to be taken up with spelling tests, mental maths practice and past papers. Still, at least it’s good preparation for secondary school…
6. The final year of school is blinkin’ expensive. Why did no one warn you that primary school residential trips cost as much as a family holiday?
7. You realise how much of your social life revolves around your child’s school. Chats in the playground, mums’ nights out, babysitting circle, book clubs… How will you cope when you’re not seeing the mums at the school gate every morning?
8. On the day that secondary school places are announced, you get nothing done whatsoever: you can’t possibly step away from your screen in case the email comes through while you’re not looking. And, oh God, what if you made a mistake on the application form and don’t get offered a place at all?
9. You simply can’t get used to the idea of your child being one of the eldest in the school. Wasn’t it only yesterday that they were walking into the playground for their first day in Reception, all shiny shoes and pristine uniform?
10. You have regular moments of panic about how your child is going to survive at secondary school. How on earth are they going to manage to keep on top of their homework, find their way around the site and get to the bus on time when you still have to remind them to get dressed in the morning?
11. If your child is applying for a grammar school place, you’re dreading and looking forward to 11+ day in equal measure. You’re terrified that your child won’t pass and will be devastated, but you can’t WAIT to bid farewell to all that verbal and non-verbal reasoning practice.
12. The whole year is full of lasts. The last Christmas play, the last parents’ evening, the last sports day… How are you going to cope when it’s their actual last day?
13. You realise how much energy you wasted on worrying about things that really didn’t matter. Why did you get so worked up when you found out your child was three reading levels behind their friend in Year 1? Everyone told you it’d be okay in the end – and they were right.
14. Now you’re the voice of reason and authority trying to calm the fears of younger children’s parents – even though you know it won’t make any difference.
15. You debate taking out a second mortgage to pay for all the stuff your child needs for secondary school. Blazer, tie, football boots, rugby boots, scientific calculator, gum shield, shin pads, technology apron… Is there any way they won't lose it all in the first week?
16. It might be years since you bought any school memorabilia, but this year, you have to get the whole lot – from the school photo to your child’s Christmas cards to the illustrated tea towel. It’s your last chance, after all.
17. Facebook keeps time-hopping you back to your child’s first year of school, and you get a lump in your throat every single time.
18. You spend the whole year reassuring your child that their SATs results don’t really matter, that they’re all for the school’s benefit and that they just need to try their best, but on the morning of their first test you’re more nervous than you were for your own GCSEs.
19. Your child is so proud to be one of the biggest in the school that you think they might burst. How are they going to manage in September when they’re one of the youngest again?
20. The rumours that circulate about secondary school haven’t changed since you were a kid. Has anyone actually ever had their head flushed down the toilet by a Year 10, you wonder…
21. Your child’s leavers’ hoodie becomes their most treasured possession. You despair of ever persuading them to take it off for long enough to put it in the wash.
22. You’re strictly forbidden from kissing your child goodbye within a 500-metre radius of the school gate. What if one of their friends saw? The shame!
23. You vow that you’ll hold it together at your child’s leavers’ assembly, but as soon as they walk into the hall, you dissolve into a soggy, mascara-streaked mess. How did your baby get so big?
24. Once SATs are over, it’s fun, fun, fun all the way. School trips, discos, post exams parties, prom, secondary school induction days… It seems like your child hardly ever goes to actual school any more.
25. Your final mums’ night out ends with everyone in floods of prosecco-fuelled tears, vowing to keep in touch once your kids have left school.
26. Seeing all the Year 6 kids coming out of school on their last day with their shirts signed takes you right back to your last day of primary school. Surely you’re not old enough to have an almost-teenager…?
27. Even though you’ve been a primary school parent long enough to know it’s not the done thing, it’s still SO HARD not to brag about your child’s last-ever report on Facebook. Must. Sit. On. Hands.
28. You realise how many people have played a part in turning your child into the person they are today – not just their teachers, but the TAs, the dinner ladies, the music teachers, their friends…
29. You never thought you’d say it, but you actually feel quite nostalgic for the days of phonics, number lines and Biff, Chip and Kipper. At least back then you felt qualified to help with your child’s homework.
30. Whether you’re feeling sad about your child leaving primary school or looking forward to the next stage of their education, there’s no disputing that their last day marks the end of an era.
Over the past seven years, you’ve seen them grow from a shy, baby-faced five-year-old who could barely write their own name to a mature, confident young person who can do algebra, speak a foreign language and tell a fronted adverbial from an adjectival clause.
They’ve made lifelong friendships, found where their talents lie and become more responsible and grown up by the day.
Proud doesn’t even come close.