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Parent Point of View – Making the move to senior school

Our next steps after primary school initiative is helping families prepare their children for a September start. Children may be anxious when they start a new school and it will be important to create a routine that is familiar. To help you get ready for this important moment, we have spoken to three Portsmouth-based parents of Year 7 children, who have shared their experiences of moving to secondary school.

An image of signposts with old school and new schoolA move to a special school

September 2023 was a big moment in our family.  Our 11 year old twins were going to senior school.  For many parents this can be a big moment; we had mixed emotions of excitement and anxiety due to the twins being together in a main stream setting since they were 2 years old.  But due to our daughter’s additional needs they were now going their separate ways.

My daughter received a place at a specialist school,  due to her ADHD, ASD and learning difficulties; therefore she required lots of extra support to help her to flourish.  Whilst I knew that this was the right place for her, the transition from mainstream to specialist provision was overwhelming at times.

She was excited to be joining the school, especially after having extra transition sessions to explore the new surroundings but at first the transition was very hard.  Visiting the school for transition sessions is very different to attending full time. Her new school is also very different to her old school.  So the teachers and staff have worked closely with us via regular communication to help her adjust and settle into the school.

I am also pleased to say that our son is doing really well at his new school and he continues to be an amazing and supportive big brother (by one minute) to his sister.

For any SEND parents about to start the process of looking at schools I would suggest that they start looking in Year 5 if possible and visit the schools to meet the staff and see the school environments.  I found that talking to other parents helps too.  Also remember to believe that you know your child the best!


A move to an inclusion centre

My child joined an inclusion centre in a mainstream Portsmouth secondary school in September 2023.  It’s been a journey filled with a mix of excitement, anxiety, and learning. For us, understanding and supporting our child’s cognitive and emotional needs has always been a top priority and moving to secondary school brought a new set of challenges.

Before the move, I questioned: Is it the most suitable placement? Did we do enough research? Will they be happy there?

Whilst my child worried: Will I meet people? Will I make friends? Will I enjoy it? Will I get to do practical subjects?

These worries I’m sure are very common. The transition was supported with both visits from the teachers to the junior school and visits for my child to the senior school. Although settled now there are still ups and downs as we adjust to the new school.

My advice to parents of current year 5 and 6 children with SEND would be to:

  1. Stay on top of communication. Communication can be harder in secondary school, so it’s essential to be proactive and persistent in following up on matters.
  2. Do thorough research. Investigate secondary schools and their SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities) provisions. Start early, as it’s challenging to find comprehensive information about specialist schools and inclusion centres.
  3. Be persistent and resilient. Don’t hesitate to ask questions and ensure necessary actions are being taken for your child.
  4. Use local support groups. Use platforms like Facebook to connect with local parental support groups. These groups can provide invaluable knowledge and support from other parents and carers who have been through similar experiences.

A move to a mainstream school

My son moved from junior school to senior school in September 2023. We were very concerned that moving to a bigger school with more students would be overwhelming for him. We also worried that because his friends would be walking to and from school on their own that he would want to do this, even though this had not been manageable in the past.

Our junior school SENCo introduced us to the new senior school SENCo and together we made a plan that would help him get used to the school environment. This included more transition days in the summer term before he started. The senior school made him a social story with photos of the classrooms and some of the teachers he would know. He was shown quiet areas and where to go if he was overwhelmed. He was also given a key contact who would be his familiar adult when he started. This meant that over the summer he could prepare better for September and felt less daunted by the change.

The first few days in September he found the school environment a bit overwhelming because of the size. He also found it difficult to make new friends which made him feel isolated. School supported this with smaller groups at lunchtime and breaktime which made these times more manageable. The school was helpful in providing support and meeting his needs as stated on his EHCP. He also had the option to go to the inclusion unit anytime he felt overwhelmed.

Through the smaller groups he began to meet people and make friends. He has now found people who live nearby that he can walk to and from school with.

It took time for him to settle but the school supported him well and he is now able to walk home on his own with his friends, and is gaining independence.


Find out more about your child’s next steps after primary school

Moving from primary to secondary education is a significant milestone for any child. For parents and carers of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), this can bring about unique challenges and considerations. Find out about the steps you can take to support your child before September.

Learn more

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