Transitioning from primary school to secondary school
As a parent or caregiver of a child with a disability you can support your child as they adjust to secondary school life or a new secondary school. Adjusting can involve becoming familiar with new travel arrangements, new teachers, a different school setting and new classmates.
On this page:
Planning the transition
Communicate with your child’s secondary school
Access further information about supporting your child
Teachers from your child’s primary and secondary school may form a Student Support Group (SSG) to create a transition plan. The SSG will involve your child’s teachers, support staff, your child (if appropriate) and you. The primary teachers in the SSG can share important information about your child with the secondary school. This might include your child’s strengths, interests and the strategies that worked well for your child in primary school. It is also possible that a specialist who has been working with your child may join the SSG. You and your child’s specialist can help teachers understand your child’s disability and suggest the best ways to work with your child.
If your child has not been diagnosed with a disability or you have not disclosed that they have been diagnosed, and they experience learning or social challenges at school, you can discuss these with their teacher. Read more about communicating with teachers in our parent guide to parent-teacher meetings. An IEP can be developed by the teacher to specifically target these challenges at school.
Help your child let their new teachers know about their interests and hopes for the future. This can be done in the form of an about me statement (from page 35) that your child can fill in or respond to using their own words and/or images.
Information you provide to the school is only passed on to the school staff and teachers who work directly with your child. You may ask to see the personal information that the school holds about your child at any time. You can also request that the information is changed or removed.
Supporting your child with the transition
A child with a disability or developmental challenge may feel anxious about the upcoming changes. These are a few strategies that may help your child with the transition:
Attend an orientation program
Help your child be prepared
Consider how you communicate with your child
Consider how you communicate with the school community
Read positive stories about secondary school
If you feel your child needs more time to get to know their new school you can ask the school about extending their orientation.
It is important to practise new travel arrangements with your child before their first day. If they are catching a bus or train to school, practise this journey with them. Make sure they feel confident about getting off at the right stop and crossing roads safely. If you plan to drive your child to school, work out safe drop off and pick-up points.
Arrange some contact such as an outing between your child and other students who will be attending the same secondary school. This may help your child to connect and make new friends.
Many secondary schools aim to welcome students and build friendships early in the first term of Year 7 through activities such as buddy programs and welcome events like Year 7 family nights or barbeques.
You may also want to aim to limit any change in your family’s everyday life apart from this transition to maintain a stable and relaxed environment prior to and during the change.
- Inviting one of your child’s health professionals to come to your child’s classroom to talk about the disability or developmental challenge
- Availability of training or professional development opportunities for teachers about your child’s disability or developmental challenge
- Preparing an information package for the specialist teachers about your child
- Writing a short letter for families about your child
You may prefer not to disclose your child’s diagnosis – there is no right way and schools should support you in whatever decision you make.
Access AllPlay Learn's story How to be organised on our secondary stories page.