Helping sixth class pupils take the next step of their journey



Whenever we think about change, it is helpful to recognise that ending, or finishing, one stage is often a necessary precursor to moving to a new stage. That is why most primary schools use occasions like Confirmation, School Sports Days, School Tours or Graduation Ceremonies as a means to mark the completion of the primary school cycle.

With these kinds of events marking the “last” time that pupils in a class or year will all share the common experiences, our children have time to process the fact that they are finishing. It gives them an opportunity to complete certain tasks that they may have set for themselves. It gives them time to say their goodbyes and to recognise that some friendships may end. It gives them a chance to notice things that they might miss about school.

This “clearing of the deck”, helps them to round out the experience of primary school and assists them with creating the space to be open to the challenges that the new change to secondary school might bring.

I have written, before, about the transition to secondary school and the kinds of preparations that children might want to make in terms of being ready for the social, organisational and academic challenges they will face. But, more importantly, for this group of secondary school “starters”, I’d suggest that we parents need to spend some time helping them to “finish” primary school.

This group left school quite suddenly, perhaps leaving books, art projects or even sports gear behind. They said goodbye to friends and teachers, but probably with an expectation of seeing them again in the same classroom within weeks. They may have “unfinished business” to process.

For some it may be a moot point. They may have been itching to move on, already having grown up and moved beyond the primary school environment. Some, though, might like to have their own ritual, like making a card or gift for their teacher, anyway. Some may want to spend some time deciding to gift on their books to younger siblings or cousins. Some may want to ceremonially burn their copies! Others may yearn for one last visit to their classroom or their desk.

Whatever way a parent assists their child to mark the ending, in addition to any formal endings a school may have attempted in June, the key is to make sure to keep talking to your child about having finished to allow them to process what that end means, such that they are freed up to face the transition to their new school in September.