If your child will be starting secondary school in the new term, the journey to school may change considerably. The new journey to school may take a new and unfamiliar route, possibly involving a longer walk, bike ride or public transport. How a child copes with these changes can very much depend on the kind of support that she or he receives in advance. Planning and practice is key in ensuring your child is comfortable with the new route or method of transport when they start the new school.
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Practice the journey to school
Where possible, practise the new journey with your child a few times beforehand. If they will be taking a bus, then practice the run a few times until they are comfortable with the journey. If they are using a bike or walking to school, practice the route and ensure you talk about the obvious dangers, like the road or strangers, etc.
Try to find at least one other neighbouring pupil who is going to the same school so that your child has a travelling companion. It may help to speak to the parent and ask them to join you in practising the route. If you are planning to take your child to school by car, it might be helpful to speak to other parents and organise a travel rota so all the parents share the journeys.
If the Local Education Authority (LEA) provides transport costs and you meet the criteria, make sure to apply for a bus pass in good time. If your child will be getting the bus and will have a bus pass, it is important to teach your child the importance of keeping it in a safe place. For the first few weeks, ensure they get into the habit of putting it in a particular place in their school bag and always putting it away in the same place after each use.
Make sure your child always has some 'emergency money' in case she or he forgets their pass, needs alternative transport or has to phone for help. This should be separate to any other money such as lunch money. If your child is taking a mobile phone into school, talk to them about adhering to the school rules on mobile phones and keeping it safe too.
Keeping calm on their first few days
It is natural to feel worried and anxious when your child takes those first steps of independence and travel to school alone. Whatever their method of transport, it is still a concern for parents on how their journey will fare. Try not to show your child too much of your own anxiety so they feel confident. Let them know that if there are any incidents on the way to or from school, they can talk to you in the first instance and to keep themselves as safe as possible.
Bullying on the way to or from school
If your child has any issues with other children on the bus, and they are feeling bullied, it is important to take action as soon as you are aware of it. If your child is being bullied, you can speak to the school about this or if the child is from another school, you can approach their school too. You might want to read our articles on dealing with school bullies, for further tips.
It may help to chat to other parents on our forums to find out how they are dealing with this issue within their family life. You can also talk to us online via our live chat service, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on our helpline on 0808 800 2222 to speak to trained family support worker.