The last couple of weeks have been a bit of a blur. As a mum to three daughters, the eldest of which will start secondary school in September, I’ve been engrossed in year 6 transition and have been working collaboratively on the resources for the Big School Bell Campaign in my capacity as a Rites for Girls Facilitator, something which I have loved. I have also been working on my daughter’s photobook for her year 6 group. Good endings matter, this together with the hoodies, is one of the few things left that we can actually do.
There have been so many missed ‘lasts’ for the year 6’s, GCSE And A level students of 2020. No leavers parties, services and assemblies, no last summer fete, no last sports day, no summer term school trips and residentials. When something so important is coming to an end, it is a good time to reflect to help us move on in a grounded way. Whether those experiences have been positive or challenging, making a good ending can enable a good beginning. My own daughter hasn’t had a great time at primary school, so I am surprised by how attached she is to her year 6 hoodie; she also treasures the photobook. These are things that they have watched year 6’s receive over the years, and are seen as precious markers of the end of their time at primary school.
My daughter is ready for a new school, ready to spread her wings and to move on to the next challenge with the usual feelings of excitement and nerves. From the time she was little, I’ve enjoyed each stage, “Oh, I love this age!” I would say each time.
But this time I’m not ready. The years spent at secondary school are shorter than the number of years spent at primary school, and how fast did that go? This time I just want to hold my baby in my arms again and press pause for a little while.
Over the past few months I have trusted my daughter to do the work set by school, make mistakes with her time management and find ways that suited her to complete her work. She went back to school this week – day two and she is already feeling restricted and controlled: “I don’t like having to do the work the way the teacher wants you to. I prefer to do it in the order I want to, with my headphones on.” Maybe this time away from school will have helped many equip themselves with skills that usually feels more like a baptism of fire in the first few weeks of secondary school. In many ways, being off school has worked well for those whose learning style is better suited to independent work and not the group work culture that is given so much value in education today.
As I write this, I’ve had yet another email from my daughter’s soon-to-be-new-school, letting us know their tutor groups. We’ve had emails cancelling open days, transition days and talks; about school uniform and transport. Each time I get an email from the secondary school, I feel my anxiety rise and it triggers many feelings in me. Finally, it hits me – I need a good ending. I need to acknowledge my own feelings and worries and recognise them as just that – mine.
My own transition to secondary school, the ending and beginning, were distressing and traumatic. When I trained with Rites for Girls to work with 10-12 year olds, I realised the impact of my experience and how much I was dreading my own daughter going to secondary school. The move to secondary school can trigger many memories for us, and it is important to honour and acknowledge our own feelings, as we have encouraged year 6’s to do in the Moving On Up Guide. Be careful to separate your own story from your child’s. Your anxiety is not necessarily her anxiety. Listen to your feelings – no matter how faint, as they tell you things you need to know. Give yourself a good ending by acknowledging your own feelings, positive or otherwise. Although I have many concerns about my daughter starting secondary school, when I allow myself past that, I also find great excitement and joy.
The move to secondary school holds so much promise. I will have to learn to gradually let go and, to quote a dear friend and fellow Rites for Girls Facilitator Anya Broughton, “to trust in her innate wisdom that she can navigate this.” By the time our children end their secondary school years, they will be young men and women. When my daughter started school seven years ago, I embraced her new-found learnings, the wonder of reading and writing, to decipher adored books on her own, to write her own poems, to gain knowledge that she shared with me. I will keep hold of this and embrace secondary school as somewhere she will seek and discover even more. It will be no less magical. She will learn much about herself and navigate situations I wish I could shield her from, but be stronger for it. I celebrate this new beginning, for her and for myself.
And my dearest daughter – I will always be there to hold you in my arms and pause for just a little bit.
Join the national celebration!
Join in the Big School Bell for a national moment of recognition to mark the school year-end for the nations’ children