Classlist Parents

Jessica Stubbings on how secondary school is different to the primary years

Members Story Quote: Not knowing the parents is another thing

Jessica Stubbings, Mum of Marcia (Year 7) and Etta (Year 5), Herstmonceux, Sussex

“The first day I organised for Marcia to walk with a friend. She was worried about how much money she needed for the bus and whether to get a weekly ticket but has got used to it now.”

“We get everything organised the evening before so the morning is as stress free as can be – she’s not missed the bus yet. We make sure all her lunch items are ready in one place in the fridge so she just has to put them in her lunchbox in the morning. And, for the first few weeks and months of term we tried to plan nice things to do at the weekends so it didn’t seem like everything is about school.”

“To help them settle in they had taster sessions in the summer and spent a whole day at the school. When they started they were each allocated a mentor from sixth from. They talk with them every week for 20 minutes about how they are getting on.”

“At Marcia’s school all the children have iPads (we pay a monthly amount for the iPad and all the apps). They have a homework app and we can check it if we want, but we haven’t as Marcia is very organised. If she doesn’t know what to do for the homework she says ‘I’ll just email the teacher’. But they aren’t going to answer emails over the weekend so we have to encourage her to think ahead.”

“As well as having an iPad, Marcia has a mobile phone too. It’s difficult to say she can’t have her iPad as she can say she needs it for her homework but we try to say not to use it for an hour before bedtime and to monitor her use in the day.”

“She is always looking at Instagram and some of her friends are on it at 10 or 11 O’clock at night. When we were young if there was an issue at school you could come home and forget about it – it’s not like that now. There have been some instances of nasty chat. We know Marcia’s passwords so she knows it’s not 100% private what she is doing on there.”

“Secondary school is so different in terms of the communication. Everything is done electronically so you have to really check your emails. For parents evening we have to go online to book our interviews. By the time we went on most of the slots were taken. You’ve got to rely on your children to tell you what to look out for. In some ways it’s better because it’s more formal. You don’t get lost letters. However, before people at the school gate would say ‘Are you going on that trip?’ At secondary school you don’t get that friendly reminder.”

“One tip is when you are considering a school don’t just look at the subjects, ask how they use iPads, what systems they use for payment and communication, and the uniform policy.”

“Marcia’s school has cashless catering – the pupils use their thumbprints to pay and you can see what they bought to eat that day and set a spending limit.”

“They’ve just introduced a uniform policy at the school. No necklaces, no bracelets, no nail varnish and just one ring. If you haven’t got those rules it can get quite competitive and be hard to keep up.”

“Not knowing the parents is another thing. Try to invite the friends round. We did a sleepover for Marcia’s birthday. I put my mobile number on the invite to text me the RSVP so that I got theirs and we got to meet the parents when they dropped off their child. She was also invited to a sleepover with a family we didn’t know. The mum sent a photo of all the girls when they were having tea to let us know they were okay which was nice as they are still relatively young.”