This assembly looks at school transition, which can be a stressful time for children and their parents. It considers children in the UK who are moving from one school to another, and also children across the world who are not able to go to school at all

Resources

  • A child’s school bag.
  • Items of school uniform.

Introduction

On the 3rd of March, as you know, parents of children going on to secondary school this year were told which school they’d been allocated. So now, all over the country, there’s probably quite a bit of worrying going on. What do you think people are worrying about?

Yes, some children and parents are worried because they’ve been told the school they had chosen is full. Others are worrying because they really don’t want to leave primary school at all and go to secondary school. One mum wrote this on a website for parents about her daughter: “Wherever she ends up, it’ll be an hour’s journey for her & such a big change.”

Another mum on the same site is worrying because one of the schools her child might be going to is also an hour’s journey, on two buses.

Those are real worries aren’t they? Sometimes it’s the parents who worry, sometimes it’s the child, and sometimes it’s both.

Can we say anything to either of them to help?

Well, one thing is certainly true, which is that very often, all through life, you find that the thing you’re worrying about either doesn’t happen or isn’t as bad as you thought it would be.

Let’s take those mums who are worried about the long journey their children will be taking to their new schools, for example. Maybe this story will help them.

Sarah’s big school adventure

Sarah’s mum was waving a letter and she was very angry.

“Horticultural Road Community School!” She said. “I’ll give them Horticultural Road Community School! It’s an hour away, on two buses. How do they expect my baby to do that? She’s never been out of the house on her own!”

Sarah looked up from her homework.

“Mum!” She said. “Don’t exaggerate. I’m not your baby any more. Not like you say it, anyway. And I have so been out of the house on my own. I’m quite capable. And Shula Ros, and Mo will all be going with me. We’ll be fine.”

“Oh really?” said Mum. “Do you think that knowing you’ll be with that lot makes me feel any better? I know that Rosalynn. She’ll have the lot of you down town playing on the slot machines, you mark my words. The police will be bringing you home in handcuffs. I can just see it.”

Sarah sighed.

“No, Mum,” she said. “Ros is much more responsible than you think. And do you seriously think anything like that is going to happen? For one thing they don’t put handcuffs on juveniles.”

“Don’t you get cheeky with me,” said Mum. But she was smiling and calming down a bit.

“Look, Mum,” said Sarah. “There’s bags of time till September. We can suss out the buses, get the bus pass. And you could go with me during the holiday while I practice the journey, getting off in the right place and all that. It’ll be fine.”

[Stop here and invite some discussion]

Who do think is most anxious about Sarah’s move to secondary school? Is it Sarah or her mum? Yes, it seems that Mum is the one who is most worried. Is it usually like that? Perhaps, but do you think Sarah is worried at all? Of course she is. She just wants to show herself as strong and calm about it all, when she probably isn’t. That’s quite natural. We do that sometimes – cover up our worries in front of other people.

What do you think to Sarah’s ideas for dealing with her mum’s concerns – practicing the bus ride and so on? Yes, they’re very good ideas. There really is lots of time to get things sorted. And as we’ll see when we carry on the story, things have a habit of falling into place.

Continue the story

As the weeks went on, first Sarah and then her mum tried the bus route and found that it worked pretty well. The first bus stopped near where the second one left, and the second one stopped close to school.

Then a letter came from school asking parents if they would be prepared to support a special school bus from their area. And, best of all, Mum got a phone call from Rosalynn’s mum saying that she’d been talking to the other mums from their part of the town, and they were working out ways of helping each other to get the children safely to school. They decided they could take turns walking the girls safely to the bus for a while until they were used to it. On other days they might organise a lift occasionally if work allowed. And they were also going support the introduction of a special bus.

“See, Mum?” said Sarah. “Things have a habit of sorting themselves out, don’t they?”

Mum laughed. “I panicked a bit at first,” she said, “because no matter what you say you really are my baby. Please allow me to feel that way. But now I don’t feel like I’m handling this on my own – I know that other mums are all looking for ways round this, and given time it’ll all work out.”

Sarah didn’t answer. She was remembering the newsagent’s shop at the bus stop and hoping she’d have time to call in there on the way home for sweets.

Esther’s story

Esther lives in Uganda. She worries about school. But her worry is that she doesn’t go to school. She helps her mother in the market, and she does household jobs, and she helps work on their vegetable plot. She would rather be at school, though.

“I worry that I am not in school, because I know the best hope for me and my family would be for me to learn to read and write and do maths. Then I could get a job and I would have a start in life. After that it would be up to me to work hard and do my best, and make my way. But I need that start, and, if I don’t get it, I will continue to be poor like my parents, and like their parents before them. School is like a golden gateway for me − in the distance. A golden gateway that I cannot reach but might be a able to one day.”

Conclusion

Moving schools is always a worry. Often, though, things work out better than anyone expects, and it certainly helps when people get together to work things out rather than just worrying alone at home.

Esther has the even bigger worry of having no school to go to. 75 million children across the world are in the same position. That’s a bad thing for everyone. It’s worst for the children themselves, of course, but it’s also bad for their families and for all of us, because our world will always be in need of educated people. If Esther goes to school, studies hard and becomes an educated worker – a doctor, or an engineer or a writer perhaps – she will have skills that she can contribute to society. Without an education she may not learn these skills, and will be unable to contribute as much to society – as well as having to work harder just to survive.

A prayer

Lord, we pray for all those who are worried about school – about which school, or any school, or about no school. Give them comfort and hope. Take away unnecessary fears. Most of all, we pray for the millions of children who cannot go to school and who could be adding richness and satisfaction to all our lives as well as to their own.

Reflection

Time, patience, and steady effort work together to solve most problems.

Further information

Lots of facts and figures and case studies of the difficulties of schooling in the developing world at www.campaignforeducation.org.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in March 2009

About the author: Gerald Haigh

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