What is the Difference Between Primary and Secondary School?

Is your child preparing to start secondary school soon? If so, then like many other children their age, they may be feeling unsure of what to expect – and afraid of what they might encounter. While secondary school is not drastically different from what they’ve already experienced, it does have enough marked differences that it can be daunting for children.

During this time, it is a good idea to discuss the differences between a primary and secondary school with your child and reassure them that their past experiences have prepared them for the next step in their education. Not sure exactly where to start? 

Here’s a quick refresher course for parents of children who will soon be attending secondary school, so you can provide your child with the kind of knowledgeable reassurance they need right now.

Classes – More, and Varied

Remember being in primary school, where everything you needed to know came from the mouth of a single teacher? You stayed in the same classroom all day, with one group of students, and learned every subject at the same desk. That kind of familiarity is what young children need, but it is also something that makes primary school different from secondary education.

During secondary school, your child can expect to move around from class to class during the day. Their various subjects will be taught by different teachers, usually in different rooms. They will have larger classes, and those classes will have different peers in them than they are used to seeing. Even if their friends from the primary school attend the same secondary school, they will see them less frequently throughout the day than they did during primary school due to all of these factors.

Socialization is Different

Speaking of your child’s peers, it is important to impress upon them the different ways they will be permitted to socialize in secondary school. During their primary school years, they became used to having friends right in class that they could talk to, laugh with, and even play with during group activities and free time. This is obviously much less frequent in secondary school, which leaves some children feeling isolated and unable to socialize the way they would like to.

Talk to your child about the various opportunities they will have to speak to their friends. In the hallways between classes, at lockers, before and after the school day itself, and at lunchtime are all good times to engage with peers. Likewise, extracurricular activities provide an excellent opportunity for students to socialize and enjoy time with friends. Consider signing your child up for some of these activities or encouraging them to do so themselves.

 Engaging with Adults is Different, Too

During primary school, teachers often act as surrogate parents. Students are encouraged to be affectionate with their teachers and to be emotionally open with them. They treat their teacher with respect, but they also treat them with a familiarity that borders on familial.

This isn’t really appropriate in secondary school. With larger classes and more students in each class, teachers don’t have the same connection with their students. They treat their classes more like employees than children, though many secondary teachers are still very friendly and warm.

Talk to your child about the appropriate ways to connect with their new teachers. Encourage honesty as well as friendliness, and underscore the importance of always addressing teachers with the kind of respect that is due to adults. This will help your child understand that while things will be different in terms of the relationship they may have with their instructors, they can still bond with and feel close to them.

Also, be sure to give your child extra love and support at home during this time. They will be experiencing lots of different emotions as they make the transition to secondary school, so do your best to be there through all of it and provide the attention, connection, and love they need to make it a positive time in their life. 

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