Home / Education / The Big Differences Between Primary School and Secondary. How Do We Prepare Our Children?

Moving from Primary to secondary school:

Moving from primary school to secondary school is one of the biggest transitions that children face early in their lives. It’s a landmark step towards adulthood and independence that can feel daunting, scary, and exciting all at the same time.
Understanding and preparing for the changes that children will face is one of the best ways to get them ready for the transition. Between school preparation and support at home, a child’s big step into secondary education can be much smoother.

Primary vs Secondary: How Big Are the Differences?

After spending a year in the same classroom and upwards of six years in the same building, it’s understandable that children are often worried about the prospect of moving on to secondary school. There are some very big differences between primary and secondary education to consider when preparing children for the transition.
Some of the biggest differences include:

• Travelling to school – the journey to secondary can be much longer and more complicated than the journey to primary.

• Everything is bigger – secondary schools generally have bigger classes and the school buildings and grounds can be significantly larger.

• More students– year groups are much larger in secondary school and students change groups for different subjects.

• Different responsibilities – secondary school children are expected to manage their time and take responsibility for their education.

• New timetable – secondary school students have a completely different timetable, move around the school for lessons, and have a larger workload.

Preparation in Schools for Secondary School

Primary and secondary schools have different measures in place to prepare children for the big transition. Many schools will start introducing students to secondary school life in Year 5 and 6, and sometimes earlier. Close partnerships between secondary schools and their feeder primary schools are an important part of this.
Activities, like events at local secondary schools, help to familiarise students with their potential future school environment. Often, secondary school teachers will visit their new pupils at primary school and answer any questions that they have. Children can further explore secondary school life, prior to the start of term, by attending welcome evenings.
To help ease the transition, many primary schools also start teaching pupils the key skills that they’ll need in secondary school. Primary schools will often teach skills like time management, researching, and organisation. Additional school roles, like Head Boy or Girl and Task Leaders, can also help pupils to prepare for the different responsibilities in secondary school.

Preparation at Home for Secondary School

Preparation at home for the transition is just as important as preparation at school. There are many things that parents can do with their children to prepare for the change of pace and greater independence of secondary school, such as:
• Attend open evenings at local secondary schools.
• Talk about the changes and what your child should expect.
• Encourage a greater level of independence leading up to the start of term, like practicing the new journey to school.
• Explore the school website and see what activities your child will enjoy.
• Give your child more responsibility for packing their school supplies and completing homework on time.


Starting secondary school is a natural step for children but going from the top of a school to the bottom can be incredibly worrying. Great preparation at home and school can help to ensure that children enjoy the transition and settle in well at secondary school.

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