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We know that starting secondary school is a big transition for all children and none more so than this year following the massive disruption to the end of their primary school years and the big changes taking place in order to keep children and young people safe when they return to school in the coming weeks.

Our Young Ambassadors have reflected back on their own experiences of starting secondary school, and share the things they would tell themselves aged 11 to help them through this transition in the hope that it will help other children who feel anxious or scared about starting school in September.

Angie

Angie, a lot of things have happened since you moved to the UK. You, me from year 7, would probably not like or even recognise the person I, well, you have become. But trust me, you like that person in the future much more than you like yourself now. Let me give you some pointers that might make your transition faster and easier.

Moving to a new city, new country, a new school is exhilarating! It’s exciting and awesome! It is also terrifying. While you know the academic facts, even 5 years in you often find yourself unable to relate or not understanding this or that “incredibly common” reference from British childhood. It’s okay.

Do your best to keep an open mind. I know you because I am you from the future, and I know that you come from a very competitive, cut-throat environment with its own traditions, stereotypes, propaganda and rumours. You are exposed to a new country, new culture, new people, a new way of doing things. Thinking that you can make such a huge step into your future without adapting and thinking you’ll be accepted anyway is very silly. It will bring you pain the more you resist it. Open your mind to new knowledge, experiences, facts and news. Doing so will only make your view sharper and you more knowledgeable, it will not mean you are weak-minded for “succumbing to propaganda” and “stupid and disrespectful” for having a different opinion compared to your elders. It means you are discovering and developing as a person, as you! It is natural, normal and good. Accept it.

Take it easy. Once again, you have been raised in an environment of high pressure, deadlines and competitions. There is nothing inherently wrong with that. However, here you will have a tendency to grab every opportunity you can while also being your best in academics and dismissing arts and sports. Please, take it easy. While ambition is a great quality, you need to pace yourself. Plan things out and take it slow: you can achieve more when you have fewer things on your plate. And prioritise! Don’t try to take part in this or that competition when your Year 11 mocks are in a week’s time! They might seem far away, but they will creep up on you faster than you know.

Also, ignore people who will tell you that mocks don’t matter. Stick to what you know and what you’ve been taught: always try to perform truly to the best of your ability. Mocks and other pieces of work you do maybe….just maybe.. will be the deciding evidence needed to give you your GCSE grade, they might even hold more weight than your final exams. So yeah, try to keep up the consistency.

Don’t be afraid of change. Just like your interests and passions will grow and evolve so will your friendships. It can be really scary to be all by yourself. When everyone else is in this or that friend group with private jokes and sleepovers every weekend, you are scared of constantly feeling alone and forgotten. Left out. You are not the only one. Many people in your year feel the same way. It might surprise you but even the popular girls will talk about how they often felt left out or worse; stuck in toxic friendships. These are the exact things you have been struggling with on your own for AGES! Knowing that you aren’t alone helps. What helps even more, is diversifying your friendships. When you try different clubs to develop your skills and interests, look forward to meeting new people. They can become your close friends faster than you realise. You are not betraying or being un-loyal to your other friends by making new ones. You’re just being a teenager and a young adult finding themselves and growing up. It’s healthy, natural and normal.

Be brave. Moving to a new country, new culture, new school was not your choice. But it still takes guts to accept it and move on with your life. It takes one kind of bravery to stand up and stand strong for what you believe in. It takes a different kind of bravery to recognise your mistakes, apologize and learn from them, grow and become a better person because you were wrong, not despite it. Be brave and talk to the popular girls, their bark is scarier than their bite anyway. Be brave enough to take a break when you feel like you’re burning out. It will help you stay happy and healthy in the long run, and mental health really does matter no matter how young or old you are. Be brave enough to ask for help. Ask the fast-talking teacher to explain that confusing concept to you, ask the prefect for advice on preparation for exams, ask your friend to help you with makeup or clothes. Asking for help does not make you weak, it makes you stronger than you could ever imagine.

And try and have more fun! Can’t wait to meet you soon.
Best wishes,
Angie (from the future!)

Abbie

I may have started secondary school 9 years ago but I still remember that day like it was yesterday. There are so many things I wish I could go back and say then.

One of the first things I would tell my 11-year-old self is it is okay to be nervous and scared and to not know as much as everyone else. Most people are also feeling this way and as everyone has come from a mix of schools our knowledge and how many people we know is different and that is okay.

The next thing I would tell 11-year-old Abbie is not everyone is going to like you and that is perfectly fine! You will be a lot happier and make great friends by just being yourself and them not liking you typically has nothing to do with you at all! Also remember that you aren’t going to like or get on with everyone either, so it’s a two-way street! But still treat them with respect and kindness!

Another thing I would say is, you will lose and gain friends that you may not have thought of losing or gaining but this all a part of growing up and exploring ourselves as individuals, so embrace it and cherish all those memories.

The final thing I would tell myself is to keep doing the things you enjoy, others may find it childish or silly but if it keeps you happy then keep on doing it! You may also find other people who do too…

Fen

Hello Fen. That’s not your name yet, just wait a year or two. There are so many things that you would love to know. Yes – you finally got to cut all of your hair off! Yes – you finally got to get out of that place! Yes – you are safe. Now that your questions are out of the way, I have some things I would like to tell you, my lovely.

Firstly, breathe. There will be a lot of stress, a lot of panicking and a lot of worrying but that is all part of the journey. Ground yourself and breathe. Life will go on whether your eyes are open or shut, so just breathe, and keep your eyes wide open. Life will pass you by if you’re not careful.

Next, don’t think you have to deny who you are to keep others happy. You’re gay? Fine – as long as you’re happy why care what others think? You’re non-binary? that‘s alright too. You do not need validation to exist. You don’t need permission to be who you are. Own it. You will find people who love you for who you are, rather than people who tolerate you despite it.

Finally, allow yourself to fail. It’s ok to make mistakes, that is how we learn. You cannot expect yourself to be perfect all the time because it is simply not possible. Some of the best things that will ever happen to you will come from failure. It lays the groundwork for success. Push through. You’ve got this, sweetie.

Watch the Young Ambassadors sharing their tips on starting secondary school

Thanks to our Young Ambassadors for taking part and providing their thoughts on making the move to secondary school that bit smoother.