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Students arriving at school

Helping Your Child Transition from Primary to Secondary School

This blog is written by Jonathan McLoughlin, Head of Year 7 at British International School Ho Chi Minh City.

Transitioning from primary to secondary school is not always easy. Whether it is moving to a new campus or a new country; it is a journey full of excitement, apprehension and sometimes fear of the unknown. As you read this article you might start to remember the way you felt putting on that new uniform and packing your school bag for the first day of secondary school. The transition is a rite of passage that every child must complete. Recently, I completed the NAE Masters in International Education with Kings College London, offered as a professional development opportunity here at Nord Anglia, with the focus of my research on primary to secondary school transition.  I hope these top tips will help prepare yourself and your child. 


All of our schools have staff dedicated to ensuring your child has a smooth transition. Whether reaching out to your new school if your child is joining us or their existing school’s secondary campus, ask for information on the new students’ transition program. Your school will be able to provide you with a lot of information about school day procedures, lesson timetables, lunch menus, afterschool activities, school bus schedules and much more. Having access to this information can help alleviate any stress and put you in an informed position for answering questions your child might have.

Science class
Clubs and co-curricular activities

One of the biggest fears children have about transitioning to secondary school is changing their friendship groups and making new friends. Change is ever constant; students in international schools will experience this more than most, so we must consider some protective factors. Making sure your child is involved in a variety of afterschool clubs and co-curricular activities is a fantastic way of providing opportunities to make friends with peers who share the same interests. As well as negotiating the transition from primary years to secondary, your child will also be undergoing developmental changes, the onset of puberty and adolescence. Having close friends who share similar interests will help them establish themselves in their new environment. They will never have as many opportunities to try new and exciting clubs and activities as they do now so encourage them to get involved. Why not browse your school’s secondary school pages to see what’s on offer?

Student singing
Fear of the unknown

It is only natural for yourself and your child to be a little worried and apprehensive if they are joining a new school, the unknown and unfamiliar can cause disorientation and anxiety at a time of great change. It is important you have an open and honest conversation with your child. These conversations will enable you to discuss what they might be afraid of; you can also share your own experiences as you’ve been through this transition yourself too. At the British School Ho Chi Minh City, we have a YouTube video of Frequently Asked Questions by Year 6 students that are answered by Year 7 students. This video is always well received and a source of answers to the many questions. You can also attend a virtual tour with your chosen Nord Anglia school, helping your child to feel better orientated before they start.  

PE lesson
The Secondary School 'Dip'

There has been extensive research into what is commonly referred to as the Secondary School ‘Dip’. As students begin Secondary School there can sometimes be an apparent fall in attainment. This isn’t to say the learning content changes or accelerates dramatically, it is to do with the language of learning. In Primary School the class teacher delivers the majority of the curriculum which the help of some specialists such as PE and Modern Foreign Languages. In Secondary School, all teachers are specialists in their subject. They will use a greater variety of subject specific language coupled with new subjects that some primary students have experienced before. When we considered the amount of change occurring it is only natural to experience a short ‘dip’ in attainment. To counteract this ‘dip’ why not ask your new school for some summer reading. Reading is a fantastic way to expose your child to new vocabulary and terminology, it is also an excellent way to relax and disconnect from devices.


With so many new clubs, activities and subjects it can sometimes be a little overwhelming. Each school will have a unique timetable. This timetable may even be slightly different for students in the same class due to setting in different subjects and Modern Foreign Language choices. Lots of students worry about keeping up with the workload and extra homework. There is no magic wand to finding your next class and completing homework in secondary school, however, the more organised your child is the easier they will cope with the increased demands of their time. Secondary School is a microcosm of society. You have leisure activities, you socialise with different groups of friends, you have to meet deadlines and you need to be punctual. Being organised will make transition easier. Get multiple copies of the timetable; one for the school diary, one for the student locker (if applicable) one for the fridge at home and one for their bedroom. Don’t forget to take a picture of it also! Get your equipment and school bag ready the night before. Highlight your lessons where you need extra equipment such as PE, Swimming Drama or Music and made sure you have those extra bags packed. As a parent check your child’s school diary to ensure they are recording their homework, making to do lists and completing all work set. If they know you will check it every Sunday evening they will keep it up to date and they will be organised. If you don’t regularly check the diary you are mirroring poor behaviour so make sure you stay organised too.

Lastly, remember we want for your child to settle quickly into secondary school life, having fun while developing as learners and leaders in a dynamic and challenging environment. Lean on us for advice and feel confident knowing that all our schools have a great deal of support in place for students moving into secondary school.  

We look forward to welcoming our existing and new students to their year 7 class after the summer break!


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