Tag Archives: Education

Starting secondary school – top tips!

It’s a daunting time right now as my daughter and I approach the end of primary school and prepare to make what feels like a HUGE leap to secondary school.

She’s been at the same school since she was 4 years old. A lovely school with a great reputation for wonderful teachers and strong parent-teacher relationships. She’s had the same familiar faces around her, the same friends, a well-travelled route to and from school and right now, in the final few weeks, I suddenly realise just how big and comfortable that particular security blanket has been….for both of us!

I’m not an idiot. I do recognise that we have to let out children grow up. In fact since before my two were even born I’ve always been looking forward to what was coming next as opposed to some parents I know who dread it. The joy you get from watching them grow and come into their own personalities with their unique senses of humour and perspectives on various things…it’s consistently amazing and unpredictable. In a good way!

However, the ‘daunting’ bit is making sure they stay that way. Continually growing and developing. Safely.

Definitely NOT something I worried about myself starting secondary school. Of course not – I was 11. Unaware of how tough things can be in a somewhat less protective environment than primary school because it is, quite rightly, time for our children to learn new skills particularly concerning dealing with new social situations. Learning how to handle difficult scenarios without mum and dad there all the time for protection. I specifically remember learning how to think on my feet and talk my way out of trouble (thanks to inheriting my mothers smart mouth! ;) ).

Then there’s the very different and more intense work routine, which can come as a bit of a shock after primary school. Homework is a lot more organised, lessons a lot more structured and more is expected of our children all-round. It’s up to us as parents to encourage them to step-up to these expectations and get the absolute best out of school for the short time that they’re there without making them terrified of it and making it an enjoyable time for them.

There are lots of things to consider as the parent but I think it’s incredibly important to minimise this kind of stress for the children. The best way to do this is to minimise it for ourselves. This means being organised and prepared, which has the added bonus of setting a great example for our children to do the same.

So to prepare my daughter for what lies ahead I’ve been thinking hard about getting organised and prepared….This is my list of Top 5’s to try and make things as easy as possible for parents and children alike but remember – this is YOUR list – not the child’s. As long as you are sorted, calm, organised it makes it so much easier for things to fall into place for your child.

Before the First Day

1.  Don’t let your child see that you’re anxious – they’ve got their own worries and need to feel able come to you for support.

2.  Reassure your child that all the other children starting that day will be feeling just the same as them.

3.  Try and arrange a school visit before start of term to familiarise them with the layout – many schools arrange this anyway.

4.  Make sure your child has everything they need well in advance – uniform, p.e. kit etc, so they’re not at a disadvantage from Day One.

5.  If you can’t actually take or pick up your child to and from school, at least for the first week, make sure they’re familiar with the safest route by doing some practice runs.

During the First Weeks

1.  Don’t be late. Make sure your child has a regular alarm for a time reasonable and early enough to have some breakfast and set off in plenty of time. Don’t make them gain a reputation for being ‘the one who’s always late’. It goes without saying I think to make sure uniform, school bag and lunch arrangements are all sorted the night before.

2.  Be prepared for a settling in period. Behavioural changes can occur such as resorting to being more babyish, quick to tears or tantrums…they’re just dealing with the stress of a new environment – be understanding and patient, it will pass.

3.  Make your child aware of who is head of Pastoral Care at school so they know where to go with any problems.

4.  Homework gets more serious very quickly than it ever was at primary school. Make sure you have a routine which works best for your child. Whether it’s sitting down to complete it straight after school or before bedtime….whichever is most comfortable for them to get the best effort out of them. However, if they’re doing it straight after school it’s important to have a snack and drink on hand…most children are ravenous straight after a hard days work!

After Settling In – Going It Alone

1.  When your child has settled and is going to and from school alone, make sure they are alert to traffic rules if cycling.

2.  If they walk to school it’s important to walk confidently, like they have a destination and not be engrossed in their mobile phone or have their i-Pod playing too loud to be aware of who’s around them.

3.  If they’re taking the bus, advise your child not to sit at the back or the top of the bus – stomping ground for trouble-makers!

4.  If your child gets lost on the way home or feels in danger, encourage them to head into a shop and speak to a member of staff about calling you to collect them. (I actually did this when I ran away from school once and got lost – had to head into a florists and have them call my mum! Doh! – so embarrassing!)

5.  Make sure your childs mobile phone is always charged. Simple way is to get into the habit of plugging it in as soon as they get home and leaving that charger in the same socket all the time. Have a bolt-on set up so that they can always call or text you for free – whether they have credit or not. It’s handy too if they can commit your number to memory.

There are also some great books I would recommend keeping handy throughout the first year of secondary school such as:

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24 hours on mumsnet.com

Yep – I heard it. All the fuss about mumsnet.com and how terribly they treated newcomers and people who didn’t shop at Boden or how great they are and what a fantastic network they provide for parents. I’d never been there though, the mysterious land of mumsnet, so how did I know who was right or wrong? Only one way to find out…

…so I joined. Oh yes, feeling like some kind of undercover spy I signed up (with all my actual details of course – we do transparency around here) and started browsing the forums to see what I could find. Well, I am a mum so felt perfectly within my rights to join, although I did wonder why it’s not called parentsnet, or if indeed the dads have a dadsnet all of their very own! I later discovered dads do have  their very own ‘thread’ named dadsnet within the forums of mumsnet but from what I read it is going to take a brave man to post anything on there!! Particularly if he’s unhappy with/doesn’t understand/criticising his wife in anyway!

For example one poor fella was asking some advice regarding his wife sleeping over at a male friends house. Before he could get any help though, he first had to deal with the barrage of comments querying his use of the word ‘let’ when asking should he ‘let’ his wife stay over at her friends.  It was almost funny how quickly people got their backs up but also concerning. That people being asked to reassure the poor guy, ignored his plea for help, instead picking on his choice of words! I mean, really had a go at him. Obviously he meant ‘let’ as in ‘should I let it happen without making a fuss’ right? Maybe not. Point is though, how unfair was it of them to make assumptions like this about someone’s intent. How easy would it have been to just ignore that one word slip-up and actually show some compassion and help the guy out? Have none of these people heard of ‘if you haven’t got anything nice to say then….zip it?’

My own experience on mumsnet was similar. In that people assumed my intentions and wasted no time in having a go at me. Even though they’d actually got it completely wrong!

I had only been a member for about 3 hours. In typical style though, managed to get myself in trouble almost immediately!

After browsing for a while and seeing some questions on topics that I felt I could be helpful on, I decided to look at ‘unanswered questions’ to see if I could help anyone who hadn’t already received some. I don’t think everyone does this on mumsnet. In fact, I think some people intentionally go on threads where there are lots of comments already, purely so that they can set about telling everyone where they got it wrong….or criticising their spelling/grammar!

Having immediately come across some questions on topics I have quite an in-depth knowledge of, I answered one. It was about allergies I think. Anyway, when I sign off….from anything, I write my name and a link to my website. So I did. This was for a few reasons.:

1 It’s habit, I do it and most people I receive emails/messages from do it            too.

2 It’s honest and transparent. Let’s face it I could be anybody, this way I was    thinking anyone in any doubt could check the source of the advice I’d            given.

3 It’s networking. Which is what social networks such as mumsnet are all         about right?  ‘Nuff said.

4 It’s optional. Noone is forced to click on the link unless they want to. NOT     putting it there though, doesn’t give anyone the option!

Well…I immediately got told off for that! Not – asked if I was new here? Did I know that it’s not really how they like things done round here? Would I mind not doing that?

No, I got told off in a very IMpolite way by one person who was then followed by a few more jumping on the bandwagon and who all made complaints to the teacher….oops, sorry I mean mumsnet HQ!! Even though I had given the first complainer my clear explanation of the above points AND an apology AND told them I was new! I was being accused of promoting my website for profit. What absolute rubbish. I don’t make any profit whatsoever from people visiting my website, it’s purely for pleasure because I love writing.  Mumsnet HQ messaged me to let me know there had been complaints and would I not do it anymore. They also said my ‘comments to date had been well received though and we hope you don’t leave the site’.

I think it’s safe to say I won’t be going back there again.  Not just because of some people kicking up a fuss about my ‘blatant advertising’! ;)

No, it’s because of the other things I kept finding. Bullying, lecturing, self-esteem-shattering ‘advice’ is NOT what parents, especially new or expecting ones need. Ever! If I had been using this site when I was pregnant or a new mum it would have absolutely terrified me. I felt so sorry for some of the genuinely concerned people who were being pulled this way and that, followed by people starting their own arguments about whose advice was best/wisest/most grammatically correct! Like a crowd of people all jumping up and down screaming ‘ME! ME! LISTEN TO ME!’

I feel tired now just thinking about it!

It was an experience though I’ll say that and I had no idea how intense it would be. In my opinion it’s nothing more than a playground, with it’s various stereotypical groups….the bullies, the gossips, the whiners, the competitive ones, the bitchy girls. Why anyone would want to go back there after 13 or more years of it I don’t know!

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Jack Wills Review

I must admit I hadn’t actually heard of this brand of clothing until today when I read about on in the Financial Times website.  I liked the cute dresses in the picture though, so decided to look up this Jack Wills fella.

The website initially reminded me of the Joe Browns brand of which I am a fan and have been for years but where they differ, is on desired demographic and more importantly (certainly to any students I know of!) cost.

JB tends to be a very ‘surfer’ kind of style, casual, relaxed, easy to wear and affordable. Similar to what I see on the Jack Wills website….apart from the prices. The JW brand is aimed at students, students with money, with an emphasis on both home and abroad, the ‘British-ness’.  Their description of what they do being:

‘Jack Wills creates fabulously British goods for the university crowd. Drawing inspiration from Britain’s rich history and culture, juxtaposed with a heavy dose of the hedonistic university lifestyle, we create authentic and relevant clothing for today.’

Ok, well there is definitely something very British about the brand.  From the tea-dresses in feminine floral patterns to the many items (particularly from homeware) emblazoned with the Union Jack (in the distinctive JW navy and pink).  Shoppers are referred to as ‘ladies’ and ‘gentlemen’ and there are blazers, rugby tops and polo-shirts galore.

It is easy to see how this style would appeal to students who are, mysteriously, all keen to express individuality with an original style but somehow all end up looking the same! Not criticising, I too was one of those students once!

JW are not big on advertising, keeping their stores fairly low-key on the outside and they avoid shouting about the brand for fear of becoming too ‘mainstream’. This tactic cleverly fulfills students desire and joy at finding something ‘new’ and ‘exclusive’ therefore fueling the feeling that they have found something different, individual.

This is all great, can’t complain about the products. They have captured the student ‘look’ right down to the authentic looking sweatpants with just the right amount of holes and fraying….

…but these authentic student looking sweatpants are £70 sweatpants!

I never knew of any student when I was at university who would choose spending that kind of money on clothes when they could find actual authentic retro looking clothing down the street at the local charity shop! I can hear the words ‘good beer money that‘ resonating in my head as I browse the JW website. Not forgetting those more conscientious students of course who would opt to spend that kind of money on books, bills or groceries.

All in all I like the brand, like the clothes, homeware and accessories. I just feel that students with less money to spend on clothes are already pulling off this look! Purely because, for them, it actually is authentic! However I reckon JW are doing it right. Getting this style to those ‘posher’ students who would never be seen dead in a charity shop and who want to make sure that, although their JW clothes send out a ‘student’ look, you still know that theirs cost some by displaying the JW or the recognisable (now) navy and pink stripe.



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