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Information for students starting secondary school

Starting secondary school is a big change. In secondary school, you have more independence and responsibility. A new school can be daunting, but it can also be really exciting. 

There are things you can do now to prepare for secondary school. Read the tips below to learn more.

Inside the classroom 

In secondary school, you will move around more for your classes. You’ll get to learn in new facilities like fully equipped science labs and design and technology facilities. You’ll most likely have different teachers for these different subjects and the school bells might ring between lessons, not just at recess and lunch.

Managing workload

The workload in secondary school is different and builds on the things you’ve already learnt in primary school. You might find the work more challenging. Remember that your teachers will be there to help you develop more advanced knowledge of subjects and give you the support you need to handle the workload. 

Here’s what you can do:

  • ask your teachers if you don’t understand something - they are there to help
  • plan to work through assignments slowly and steadily so they don’t get left to the last minute
  • talk to your school’s wellbeing officer, counsellor, or your home group teacher if you are feeling worried about schoolwork.

Outside the classroom 

Making friends

Some of you will attend your new secondary school with your primary school friends. For others, there will be changes to your friendship groups. You’ll make new friends and may even stay in touch with old primary school friends. 

It’s okay if you are nervous at first. If things feel really tough, don’t worry as there are people available at your new school to help you adjust. This can include your home group teacher or even a school wellbeing leader. 

Here’s what you can do:

  • take part in all the activities your secondary school organises to help you feel welcome. These might include transition days, tours and welcome evenings.
  • if your school offers a camp, this can be a great opportunity to get to know new people while trying fun activities.
  • get involved in sports and clubs/groups on offer before and after school or at lunchtimes.

Being around older students

It is okay to feel worried about attending school with older teenagers. Many students that are now in secondary school found that when they started secondary school, the older students helped them settle in, answered their questions and helped them find their way around the school.

Many schools have peer mentor programs, where older students support the younger ones. Older students might do things like take you on school tours or visit your home group to answer your questions about secondary school. Some students even see older students as role models.

Here’s what you can do:

  • ask your secondary school about peer mentoring programs 
  • ask your secondary school about quiet spaces to use at recess and lunch if needed
  • talk through your worries with a trusted adult. This could be a support person at your new school such as your home group teacher, a wellbeing leader or a school counsellor.

Finding your way around school

Secondary schools are bigger than primary schools so it is understandable to wonder how you will find your way around. Your teachers will show you where you need to go, and many schools also have older students on hand to help.

Here’s what you can do:

  • take part in tours and transition days offered by your new school
  • many schools provide new students with maps and timetables. Ask a teacher if you have any questions about reading them
  • if you are catching public transport to or from high school, do a practice run before school starts so you know exactly where to get on and off
  • if in doubt, ask a teacher or the front office staff for help

Student information days 

There will be opportunities for you to attend transition days at your new school to help you adjust and become familiar with your new environment. See changing schools for more information. 

Your new secondary school will send you and your family more information about its transition days and other activities it will offer to help you settle in.

Extracurricular activities 

Secondary school has many extracurricular activities that you can try. It’s a great time to explore new interests and try new things. 

Your new secondary school will have more information on the activities that are available.

Advice from students

Some students have shared the below comments from when they started secondary school, to help future students who are starting secondary school for the first time. 

Making friends

  • Make sure you stay in touch with your old primary school friends, ask lots of questions if you are not sure (and) don’t be afraid to be yourself.
  • Have fun enjoy it while you can. Challenge yourself make friends from different schools. It will be difficult but you will get through it and enjoy it.
  • Sit next to someone in class that you feel comfortable with, or mix it up and sit with someone that you don’t know and get to know them. Talk to them when the teacher’s not talking.

Being around older students

  • I really did think (older students) were scary but after a while they’re literally just like everyone else. So they may be older, but then they are just as nice as everyone else, which is a really good thing.
  • You get a lot of role models in high school and they’re really supportive here.
  • Peer leaders guided us through things and answered all our questions and made us feel a bit better.

Learning

  • Do your work and hand everything in on time.
  • Some of the subjects are kind of easy and they are also fun.

Wellbeing and support

  • Don’t be scared, there will be a lot of people that will help you out.
  • On my first day I realised there’s nothing to actually worry about and your teachers are there to help you and they really helped me through the process.
  • High school isn’t as bad or scary as you’d think from watching TV shows and movies.

Self confidence

  • Be confident, believe in yourself and follow your dreams.
  • Put yourself out there, be kind, and have fun. You’re going to make friends. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or for help, it’s the only way you’re going to find out.
  • Just do you. Once you’re settled in, you will be fine.

Enrolment, Capacity and Transition Unit

Phone: 8226 3932
Email: Education.ECTU [at] sa.gov.au