As your children start a new school phase, the ongoing encouragement from parents becomes a crucial factor. As parents, you need to give them the strength to handle the challenges of changing schools with determination to ensure that they keep achieving in both their personal and academic paths. In this article, Amity International School Amsterdam sheds light on how parents can support their children during one of the most important periods of their young lives: the transition from primary to secondary school.

Whatever our age and stage of development, life is full of transitions! Transitions are a natural part of life, but they can sometimes be challenging, especially for our children. From moving from primary to secondary school or even changing schools altogether, transitions can bring about a mix of emotions and adjustments. Collectively, educators, parents and other community members are working to ensure that these academic transitions are as smooth and seamless as possible.

1. Familiarise yourself with the local education systemIn the Netherlands, the Dutch primary school system has eight grades, namely: group one (four years old) to group eight (12 years old). After that, children transition to secondary school. If you are living in the Netherlands, and your child is transitioning from primary school to senior school, then you might want to become familiar with a few things to support your child and help them decide which path they will take. Examples of this include the end test system (eindtoets from CITO) and the “School Lottery” in regions such as Amsterdam.

Dutch secondary schoolsIn the Netherlands, there are several types of secondary education, including VMBO (preparatory secondary vocational education), HAVO (higher general continued education) and VWO (pre-university education).

Based on your child’s education journey so far, the Dutch primary school teacher provides preliminary advice on which path your child should take. This advice is normally confirmed by the results of the end test, which are standardised tests taken in the final year of primary school (group eight). The advice of primary school teachers and the exam results help guide families to make choices on their child’s secondary school education.

“School Lottery” in AmsterdamIn Amsterdam, a random allocation system has been implemented for children transitioning into secondary school. Following your child’s results, the “School Lottery” randomly assigns them to one of the desired schools on the family’s list. Some families are not happy with the allocated school system and are looking for alternatives. Therefore in the few months before the academic year begins, there is typically a surge in requests for placements for international schools from Dutch families.

Additionally, many families appreciate the benefits of an international education, recognising its potential for their children in the future.

International schoolsSince international schools in the Netherlands follow different learning philosophies (British, American or International Baccalaureate), children are not obliged to take the CITO exams nor are they dependent on the lottery as they are transitioning to secondary school.

Instead, international schools have their own assessment and admissions procedures. There are certain entry requirements based upon a student’s prior level of academic performance and language proficiency.

Therefore, the first step during this transition period is to be aware of the requirements and to get ready for the assessments, whether it’s a Dutch or an international school.

2. Engage in open conversationsIt’s essential to acknowledge that every child responds differently to change. While some may embrace it with excitement, others may feel anxious or uncertain. As parents, your role is crucial in providing reassurance and stability during these times.

Thinking about all the changes, such as new faces, a larger campus, different teachers and varied subjects can make children feel overwhelmed, especially at a stage in their lives when they are experiencing many physiological and psychological changes.

Open communication is key – encourage your child to express their feelings and concerns, and listen to them without judgment. As a parent, it is crucial to reassure your child that their feelings are entirely normal and shared by many others in similar situations, emphasising that they are not alone. Reassure them that it’s normal to feel a bit nervous, while reminding them of their strengths and capabilities.

3. Create a safe study environmentWhen children start secondary school, they need to have a designated study area and have time set aside for homework and relaxation. Establishing organisational habits, such as a steady study schedule and daily routines, can give a sense of stability during these changes. Encourage healthy habits such as regular exercise, plenty of sleep and balanced nutrition, which are essential for both physical and mental well-being.

Talk to them about what to expect in their new school, whether it’s different routines or subjects. Visit the school together if possible, attend orientation events and familiarise yourselves with their layout and facilities.

Being aware of important exam dates and project deadlines at the beginning of the term might be helpful to keep your child on top of their lessons. Additionally, they might need assistance with their homework and projects. However, it is important to guide them to do their work independently, instead of doing it for them.

4. Be involved in their (educational) journeyFamily support is indispensable for a student’s academic journey. As children are going through this period, it is crucial to be aware of their progress and to stay in touch with the school. You can be involved in your child’s educational journey by attending parent-teacher conferences or contacting the school’s wellbeing counsellor.

Let teachers know if your child is experiencing any difficulties or concerns so that they can provide appropriate support. Working together as a team can help ensure that your child’s needs are met both academically and emotionally.

5. Promote social integrationEncourage your child to maintain connections with old friends while also being open to forming new friendships. Social support plays a significant role in helping children adjust to new environments. Encourage them to get involved in extracurricular activities or clubs where they can meet like-minded peers and build relationships outside the classroom.

Transitioning to secondary schoolIn conclusion, transitions within schools are a natural part of your child’s educational journey. By providing love, support and guidance by addressing expectations, you can help them navigate these changes with confidence and resilience. Remember, you’re not alone in this journey – the school’s community is here to support you every step of the way, empowering your child to navigate secondary school challenges and be successful on their personal and academic journey!

Looking for an international school for your child in the Amsterdam area? Amity International School Amsterdam offers a high-quality international education and equips them with skills that not only help them today, but that also prepare them for the future! Learn more about their school by contacting their admissions department.

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