Research reveals the major fears parents have when their child starts secondary school

From accidentally getting into trouble, the volume of homework, and the influence of older pupils – parents share their biggest anxieties as their children move on from primary school

Richard Jenkins
Friday 01 September 2023 21:09 BST
Parenting expert Sue Atkins said: “If you’re feeling worried about your child starting secondary school, be sure to remain positive and optimistic when speaking about the move”
Parenting expert Sue Atkins said: “If you’re feeling worried about your child starting secondary school, be sure to remain positive and optimistic when speaking about the move” (Tom Maddick / SWNS)

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Louise Thomas

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The top worries parents have when their children start secondary school include bullying, whether they’ll make friends, and peer pressure.

A poll of 1,000 UK parents of children aged nine to 16 revealed the 30 main anxieties mums and dads share at this important transition.

They include them walking to school alone, not always knowing where they are or what they are doing, school safety and their child taking the bus alone.

Other concerns were their offspring accidentally getting into trouble, the volume of homework and the influence of older pupils.

The survey, commissioned by location sharing app Life360, showed 66 per cent of parents were worried about their child starting secondary school.

While 53 per cent reported being more anxious about their child being less safe than they were at primary school.

Parenting expert Sue Atkins said: “The move up to secondary school can be a daunting time – not just for the kids themselves but for parents too.

“If you’re feeling worried about your child starting secondary school, be sure to remain positive and optimistic when speaking about the move.

“Have an open and honest chat with your child about any concerns they might be having and reassure them that feeling anxious is totally natural – everyone will be feeling this way.”

The study also found 49 per cent of parents of older children, already at secondary school, said they found it hard to judge what rules to put in place.

And 34 per cent agreed that after their child started big school, trusting them to be where they say they will be was the biggest challenge.

However, they worried less about bullying after the child had started.

And they also became less concerned about how their child would cope in a stricter behaviour system than they may have been used to at primary school.

But on the other hand, after a term or so in secondary school, parents are actually slightly more likely to stress about whether their child will make friends.

Going to secondary school also does not have a significant impact on when parents believe kids should get their own mobile phone – with both groups suggesting it should be around the age of 10.

Almost six in 10 (58 per cent) parents said they will be monitoring their child’s location via a mobile phone by the time they start secondary school.

This includes 32 per cent who already did this when they were at primary school.

David Rice, International GM and CSO for Life360, added: “Parents often worry more than children when it comes to making the move to secondary school.

“Location-sharing apps can provide parents with a sense of security and give them peace of mind by allowing them to monitor their child’s location in real-time, especially in emergency situations.

“In turn, this also allows kids to enjoy the new-found freedom that comes with starting secondary school.”

To help kids transition to their new school, 39 per cent suggest talking to them about their own experiences, according to the figures.

Nearly half (47 per cent) make sure to tell their kids what to do if they’re being bullied, and 30 per cent will make sure their bag and school gear is up to scrutiny from their peers.

Top 30 worries for parents - when kids start secondary school:

  1. Bullying
  2. Will they make friends
  3. How they will settle in
  4. Whether they’ll be happy
  5. Peer pressure
  6. The influence of new friends
  7. Managing your child’s anxiety/ mental health
  8. The influence of older pupils
  9. How they will get on academically in general
  10. Walking to school alone
  11. Whether they’ll like their classes
  12. The volume of homework
  13. Not always knowing where they are or what they are doing
  14. School safety
  15. Whether they’ll be a little fish in a big sea
  16. Keeping their belongings /bag safe
  17. Increasing pressure from social media
  18. Whether they’ll like their teachers
  19. They wouldn’t have any primary school friends in their classes
  20. How they’ll cope with a stricter behaviour system
  21. They won’t know how to get around the school layout
  22. Whether the secondary school will make the same allowances for their needs as primary school
  23. How they’ll perform in exams
  24. Whether the teachers will get to know them as well as primary school teachers
  25. Taking the bus alone
  26. Whether their phone will be stolen
  27. They’ll start pushing the boundaries in terms of their independence
  28. Them getting into trouble generally
  29. How they’ll navigate the school lunch system
  30. Whether they are responsible enough for their first phone

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