What parents can do to help children going up to secondary school

What parents can do to help children going up to secondary school

After more than a year of children experiencing disrupted schooling, they now have a six-week holiday – a chance for them to get even further behind.

Many parents of those going up to secondary school have asked me what they should be doing to ensure their children know as much as they ought to.

This is a crucial stage because if children don’t know what they should know when they begin secondary school, they’ll find it extremely hard to catch up.

Maths and English are the most important subjects.

If they have a grasp of these then they can more easily understand other areas of the curriculum.

In maths – the subject I was brought in to advise the coalition government about – there are certain basics that ought to be understood.

Those going up to secondary school should know all their times tables up to 12. They should not only be able to recite them but ought to be able to fire off answers to any random question – e.g. 7 x 8 = 56.

This kind of knowledge links in well with number bonding up to a 1,000 meaning a child can do basic calculations in their head because they know where the numbers are positioned and in what order.

Although children have calculators and phones, there is no substitute for having good mental arithmetic skills.

It is also important they have a good grasp of the four rules of number: addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

Long multiplication and long division are crucial operations too and should be practiced.

The four rules of decimals and the four rules of fractions are also important, and a thorough grasp of these areas will mean a child has a head start in secondary level maths.

Percentages should be understood, and children ought to be able to calculate an amount from a percentage and find a percentage of an amount.

These are the key areas because a good grasp of decimals, fractions, and percentages means that children can apply mathematical algorithms to problem-solving.

Not all of this is properly covered by the National Curriculum in depth so the summer is a chance for parents to prepare a child for what they will face in secondary school.

Regarding English, it is important for children to read good literature. Start with the modern classics such as C.S. Lewis and the Narnia Chronicles or Roald Dahl’s Matilda and then go to older classics such as Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island or Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden.

Reading is one of the best ways to improve a child’s mastery of the English language.

Children should be encouraged to write short reviews of books once they have read them. For example, what they liked about it – the characters, story, themes and ending?

To improve comprehension skills, it is useful to practice answering questions on passages of literature. Parents can read a passage and quiz their children about it. It doesn’t take long and will assist development.

As parents know from the first lockdown, it can be hard to teach when trying to work and having other children to look after.

But if they have a child going up to secondary school the next six weeks are crucial. What the youngsters know in September could influence their whole school career. It is much harder to offer extra support in secondary education because children are moving from classroom to classroom. If they are withdrawn from a specialist subject in order that they might receive extra support in English and Maths they are likely to fall behind in this subject too.

Many schools will be keen to help parents with work that children can do, and there are many resources and books available online.

If parents can find the time in the next six weeks to help their children with English and maths it will be well worth doing – but don’t expect the children to see it like that. The key thing is to persevere and keep things in balance by offering rewards and by taking them to places and doing enjoyable activities too as well as the study.