1 in 5 children anxious about secondary school

Girls find the move from primary harder than boys
  • Deborah Condon

Around 20% of children are anxious about moving from primary school to secondary school, however this transition is easier if they have more friends and good communication with their parents, a new report has found.

The report from Growing Up in Ireland, which is an ongoing study of almost 20,000 children, focused on the transition from primary to secondary school, which is considered a major landmark in young people's lives.

It found that while most young people settle well into their new school, around one-fifth are anxious about meeting new friends and miss their friends from primary school

It also found that young people become less confident about their academic abilities as they face new academic demands.

Overall, girls experience more difficulties than boys when transitioning to secondary school and this transition also tends to more difficult for those from disadvantaged areas and those with special educational needs.

In fact, those with special needs tend to have more negative attitudes towards school as a whole compared to their peers.

Meanwhile, the report noted that social relationships appear to have a key role to play during the transition to secondary school. Children are likely to find the move easier if they have more friends and have better communication with their parents.

Furthermore, interaction with secondary school teachers is also key. Children who receive positive feedback or frequent praise tend to settle in better, while those who are reprimanded or given out to tend to lose confidence in their ability to do their school work.

The report also highlighted the fact that children who are better at maths at the age of nine settle more easily into secondary school, while those who dislike their primary school teachers or subjects become less confident over the transition period.

When it comes to overall attitudes to school, children tend to have a more negative attitude if they are from lone parent families or from families with lower levels of education.

According to the study's author, Emer Smyth, of the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), how children get on in primary school ‘sets the tone for their later educational success' and if they disengage from school at primary level, it can be difficult to re-engage them later on.

The report was welcomed by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone, who commented that it ‘generates some important insights about the role of early school experiences, as well as difficulties encountered by particular groups'.

"Changing from primary to secondary school is a key moment in a child's life. One of the key findings shows that young people's school experiences and outcomes are shaped by their social background. This research will help inform policy on supports for children, young people and their families," she said.

The report, Off To A Good Start?, can be viewed here


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