Supporting the transition to secondary school

BY MARGARET HESSION

By this time of year, primary schools are a hive of activity with school tours, sports days, matches, standardised testing and the 6th class graduation ceremonies drawing close. Every year, more than 50,000 children in Ireland move from Primary to Post Primary education. The transition from primary school to secondary school is a milestone in a child ’schooling career.

While it is an exciting time, it can also be very daunting. Young people’s experiences of the transition can impact on their academic, emotional and social development. It presents new challenges not just for students but also for parents. One of the biggest worries is about making new friends. Many children follow their friends in choosing schools, however a lot of regrouping can take place once established, and this takes a degree of social awareness to navigate. There are lots of changes to deal with between managing a broader range of subjects, more teachers, more homework, longer school days, and new friends.

How parents can help

Parents have an important role to play in helping their children adjust to the changes. Encourage your child to talk about the school and what the expected changes mean to them. Parents can help with subject choices in first year and can also encourage their children to participate in extra- curricular activities in whatever fields they feel they are talented.

Recent research

Recent research has highlighted that one in five primary school children in Ireland experience general anxiety. A study by the ESRI also found that at least 20 per cent of students take a long period to settle in, particularly pupils with less self-confidence and poor self-image. Some of the most common issues that cause younger children to stress are, being left out of friendship groups, pressure of school work, not fitting in, and different teaching styles. Social media and addictions to screen times and gaming has also impacted. Wellness expert Ann-Marie Ireland, says that mindfulness is one of the tools that can successfully address anxiety and behavioural issues.

It is well documented that mindfulness can improve the mental emotional, social and physical wellbeing of young people. In in my experience of delivering school programmes, such as .b and BIBO (Breathe In, Breathe Out, it is however not for everyone. Furthermore it would be wrong to assume it is. Many youngsters prefer physical activity, sometimes strenuous activity in its various forms and it is always wrong if educators make broad assumptions based on a few studies or their own prejudices. However the philosopy of mindfulness and its core concepts are always helpful.

Supportive concepts

Teen academy Galway is hosting an exciting summer camp called ‘Thrive’ in August this year, a new initiative to help 6th class pupils, regardless of what secondary school they are going to, with their transition. The concept is based on years of experience of working with early teens first hand through their transition and designed to build self-esteem, enhance social skills and to have fun. The camp is based on 4 main pillars; resilience, team building, the school day and mindfulness for pre and early teens.

Team building games, social skills, and mindfulness activities are some of the daily activities while individual workshops include, cyber safety, dealing with shyness and anxiety, multiple intelligence, nutrition and your body, science through art & craft and maths for fun. Maths is the only core subject included as it can cause so much anxiety for those who struggle with it. We are delighted to have a guest visit from member of the Galway hurling team to help us deliver our module on ’Growth Mindset’ addressing how we confront and address obstacles in our path. Thrive academy is a rotating camp and is based in Athenry this year. Registration evening takes place in the New Park hotel on June 27 from 7.30.

Places are limited so for more info go to www.careerguidancegalway.com- Transition summer camp.

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