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How to prepare your foster child for secondary school

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7 tips for preparing your foster child for secondary school

Starting secondary school is a daunting prospect for even the most settled children. This feeling is magnified for foster children, who are also adjusting to living in a new home and getting used to their new family.

Whether you’re fostering a new arrival who is about to start secondary school, or a child already settled into the family, it’s vital you offer the right support and guidance to help them through this period of change. That’s why we’ve put together some helpful tips about how you can make your child’s transition from primary to secondary school as smooth and stress-free as possible.

1. Establish a strong morning routine

One of the best ways to prepare your foster child for secondary school is to help them organise their morning routine before the beginning of term. This can cover everything from the time they need to wake up and have breakfast, through to sorting a family schedule for the bathroom, and making sure their bag is fully packed each day.

How will your child be getting to school? If they’re walking, practise the route to and from school together. Or if they will be travelling by bus, make sure they know which bus they need to catch and at what time. Ultimately, a morning routine sets the mood of the day ahead and will help to give your child a sense of security and stability.

2. Get to know the school’s wider care team

As a foster carer, it's important that you're not only aware of the key members of staff that are supporting your child, but you make yourself known to them, too. There may be a designated Looked After Child (LAC) lead teacher – who is a regular member of staff with additional responsibility, knowledge and authority over anything your child may need or be faced with during the school year. Then there's also the Head of Year, who will be the first port of call should any issues arise regarding your child. Find out more about how these teachers can help support your child in our back to school guide.

3. Make sure they have the correct uniform and equipment

We're all familiar with the stress when we realise we've forgotten something – and this would be magnified for a foster child starting secondary school. By investing in the right uniform and school equipment such as stationery and books, you're giving your child a better chance of fitting in with their classmates. Your foster child might not feel confident enough to ask you for certain supplies, so take a proactive approach. If you're in any doubt of what's needed, check the school’s policy on their website.

4. Pack spare masks and hand sanitiser

As part of your back to school checklist, make sure you include one or two extra masks in case your child loses theirs or it breaks during the day. It's also recommended that children carry a 60% or higher alcohol-based hand sanitiser, as this kills most types of bacteria, viruses, and fungi. The key with motivating your child to use these items is ensuring they understand why they need to be used in the first place.

5. Encourage and support them to complete their homework

Your foster child may have experienced disrupted education and by completing their homework, they can help teachers to get them back on track by identifying their strengths and weaknesses. If your child is struggling to get started with their homework, why not sit down and help them? This will make the tasks feel a lot less daunting and give you both an opportunity to bond. Most secondary schools give children a homework diary, so you should check that regularly to help your child stay organised.

6. Make sure they attend school regularly

Whether it's anxiety with settling in, bullying or stress around schoolwork, there are a number of reasons why your foster child may not want to attend secondary school. However, it’s a legal requirement and time out of the classroom can have a strong impact on a child’s achievement through school and disrupt their routine. If your child is showing signs of not wanting to attend school, or avoids talking about it altogether, try to get to the root cause of the issue.

7. Help them to make friends

It’s common for foster children to have challenges making friends and connecting with people. This can often be put down to distressing life experiences and underdeveloped social skills. One way you can help your child break out of their shell is by encouraging them to make friends with people who have similar interests. Extracurricular clubs around sports, music or games provide plenty of opportunities to have fun while meeting new people. 

If you have any more questions about the best ways you can support your child as they start secondary school, or about fostering in general, get in touch with our friendly team today. You can also watch out handy video on the transition from primary school to secondary school!

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