Changing Secondary School: 18 Months Post-Switch

changing secondary school

It’s been 18 months since we made the decision to take Flea out of her last secondary school, and move her to a new school.

I thought it might be nice to share an update.

Partly because I hate when people announce a big change and then never tell you how it actually went (so annoying, right?). But also because moving secondary school is a big deal. Especially when you change schools halfway through Year 8.

Quick backstory: Flea went to a new school when she entered Year 7, and at first she was really happy. But at the end of Year 7 she was seriously struggling, both academically and emotionally. We stayed put for another term, before moving her back to her old school half-way through that year.

changing schools in the middle of the year

Honeymoon Period

When Flea first switched school, there was a definite honeymoon period.

I think she was just so relieved to be away from the situation at the old school that she was thrilled with everything. Lots of the girls went out of their way to welcome Flea back to school, and she was never short of someone to sit with at lunch.

It was a HUGE relief, and I think you know yourself when you’ve made the right choice. It was so nice to see her smile reappear.

The Academic Impact

Within a month of sans-serif;”>changing secondary school, it was apparent that while Flea had struggled at her last school, she’d fallen behind. I think this is probably very common – if a child isn’t happy, it stands to reason they won’t be keeping up with academic work. This issue was compounded by differences in the curriculum between schools and the order that topics had been covered.

My top tip here is to talk to teachers, and ask teachers to talk to your child. Flea was reassured that she wouldn’t be considered stupid if she hadn’t covered something, or needed to catch up. They provided copies of other students’ notes, so Flea could catch up, and over time, that’s what she did.

At home, we got lots of support from a maths tutor. He basically worked with our daughter to completely re-do Year 7 maths, and a good chunk of Year 8. With his support, Flea has caught up and grown so much in confidence.

secondary school tips

Social Impact

Changing secondary schools in the middle of the year is TOUGH on friendships, especially for younger teen girls.

One thing I noticed from the outside, is that friendships seem to be very mobile in teen girls. So girls are besties one week, but the next week that grouping has dissolved and everyone is friends with someone else. That can be hard to keep up with, if you’re the new girl.

As a parent, my helicopter tendencies meant I was keen to be “supportive” and arrange days out, parties and gatherings. I was desperate for Flea to be invited to parties and shopping dates and to hang out at the weekends. But this was completely and utterly pointless.

What I’ve learned is that kids just need time and space to find their own people. A year after switching schools, Flea has some great friends who really ‘get’ her. Now she’s in Year 10, Flea is quite regularly enjoying going for pizza, having sleepovers and movie trips with her friends.

If anything, just encourage your child to get involved in school activities that you are confident they’ll enjoy – that’s where they’re going to find their tribe.

Sports Drama

If your child is changing secondary school, they’re going to have to start from scratch in lots of respects.

At Flea’s last school she was a regular member of the school hockey team. We knew when Flea moved that her new school’s team was seriously good.  Flea could try and earn a spot, but realistically, it just might not happen.

Flea was fine with that, and she’s worked hard and stuck it out, and did get selected for the team. But it took a full 18 months.

hockey training

Consider that teams vary from school to school, and kids have to work to prove themselves to a new set of coaches and team-mates. If an activity isn’t going to be possible at a new school, is there something you can do outside of school to help out? Can you encourage your child to try new activities?

What We Learned About Moving Schools

I don’t think I under-estimated the challenges of changing secondary school. But I probably did under-estimate how LONG it would take to fully adjust to a new school.

The flip side is that I should have had more confidence in my child’s ability to handle those changes. She’s caught up academically, found new friends and discovered new interests, mostly without my help.

One tip I would share with other parents, though? Talk to the teachers.

At first, some of Flea’s new teachers mistook her shyness for a lack of interest. Flea can get quite forgetful when she’s stressed, which some teachers interpreted as a lack of commitment and effort.

Once the staff understood a little more how Flea was feeling, and what she needed, we’ve found some staff members to be hugely supportive. One teacher encouraged Flea to audition for the school production, another guided her to a news reporting activity that led to Flea meeting one of her best friends.

Realistically, the teachers are in the best position to help your child – and your teen will probably listen to people at school a lot more than they listen to you!

Ultimately, if you’re considering changing secondary school, don’t be afraid your child won’t cope. Because they will. And I hope that you find, as I did, that your child will be happier even with all the challenges, and you’ll know it was the right choice. 


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