When it comes to changing schools it's more often the parents who worry the most while the kids just get on with it. Here are a few tried and tested ways to help the family settle quickly.
At a glance
- Moving schools can boost kids' resilience.
- What kids want most when starting at a new school is to fit in.
- Visiting the new school before your child starts helps to build positive bonds.
- It's often parents who need the most reassurance.
- Talk to your child about the move in a positive way and get involved in local community activities.
Change is always going to have its share of stresses but research shows moving can actually contribute positively to a child's learning because they build resilience and respond to new challenges and learning situations. On the other hand, if a child is already not coping at school for other reasons, then moving, especially if it's often, can make matters worse. If that's the case talk to your old or new school principal as soon as you can to get some support.
Settling your children quickly into a new school
For the most part, children are quite adaptable and resilient but it helps if parents get as much information as possible about the school to help their kids adjust easily to the new routine.
Children are mostly concerned with fitting in, so information like library and sport days are vital for kids so that they don't feel out of place.
When parents take the time to get children ready for the changes and are positive, their children settle quickly.
If your child is going to a new primary school, visit the school before your child starts and, if possible, meet the child's teacher. This will help to build positive bonds. If your child is heading to high school, ask the principal to put you in contact with the year adviser.
It's more often the parents who need reassurance when their child starts at a new school because it can be harder for parents to meet other parents after Kindergarten. Getting the family involved in school and community activities will go a long way to building new friendships.
It helps if the move coincides with the start of a new school year. At this time kids are being put into new classes and making new friendships. It allows new children to fit in better when all the kids are going through change.
It's normal for kids to feel a little anxious about starting at a new school. Kids worry about losing contact with their old friends and making new friends. All children have access to a school counsellor at NSW public schools if the anxiety becomes overwhelming.
What you can do before the move
- Talk about the move with your child in a positive way. Answer their questions and offer reassurance.
- Notify your current school about the change in writing as soon as possible (this allows enough time for your child's file to be up to date and for a report to be prepared on your child's progress).
- Ask your current school for reports, samples of work and other relevant information such as any updated assessments of additional needs (where appropriate).
- Ensure all fees are paid and library books returned before leaving school.
- Encourage your child to get photos of their friends and contact details so that they can stay in touch.
A student portfolio is a great idea because it provides a documented history of your child's learning. Collect all recent reports, work samples, awards and other relevant information into one folder. This allows your child's new teacher/s to understand what work your child has been doing. When children are involved in this they also get to review their achievements, their life at the school and have all relevant information in one place.
Choosing a new school
- You can use the School Finder available on the education.nsw.gov.au website to find schools in the area.
- If there is some choice, make sure you involve your child in the decision. You may be able to visit a number of schools in the area and ask for your child's opinion on them.
- Gather as much information about the new school as possible from the school's website. Ring the school and talk to the school staff. Ask for a copy of the school's annual report, prospectus or information brochure.
- Try to visit the school beforehand and talk with other parents at the school.
- Once you're in your new home, organise your child's room first so they can settle.
- Make an appointment to meet with the principal at the new school.
- At the meeting with the principal, show them your child's portfolio of work. Discuss with the principal your child's strengths and areas needing development, interests, personality, placement and additional needs, if applicable. Be honest with the principal about any problems your child has been having and what may help them.
- Meet your child's teacher and ask them about the best way to communicate with them.
- Familiarise yourself with the school and try to meet new parents by joining in school activities.
- Stay in touch with your child and how they are going.
- After a couple of weeks, check with the teacher about how your child is settling in.
Different states have different school systems. When the national curriculum is launched there will be greater consistency across Australian schools. In the meantime, there is the Interstate Student Data Transfer Note, which helps with the transfer of student information between schools.