The transition from the primary to the secondary cycle is an important step for the children because the well-known class environment, the teachers, the classes, the playground and time table will change. For most of the children this phase is exciting and they are looking forward to it with curiosity. The school on its part helps the children to get to know the new environment with systematic preparatory measures.
We are certain that you as parents want to support your children during this period and help them to settle quickly down. This might be more challenging for the parents who do not have older children already in the secondary school.
To help you with additional, practical information we offer you a list of Frequently Asked Questions prepared by parents of children in the secondary and primary cycle. We hope it will be useful for both you and your children!
We thank all parents and teachers who shared with us their experiences, provided us with valuable information and who supported us with their advice.
1. Change of the class environment
What does it mean for my child to lose the well-known class context?
The ‘titulaire’ or class-teacher spends 4-5 hours with the children on the first day giving them orientation and helping with the transition phase. However, one of the most obvious changes is the fact that children do not have “their” class room anymore. It might take some time for the children to get used to changing of the classrooms. At the beginning, it can be difficult, even stressful for the children to understand where they have to go. Moreover, the classes consist of different groups of pupils, meaning that your child might attend different classes with different children. This might cause mixed feelings: on one hand children feel that they have more freedom and independence, on the other hand, they have to get used to managing it effectively. Some children end up a bit overwhelmed.
What can you do to support your child? It is important that children feel that their parents are at their side and that they can express their feelings and concerns.
2. Class teacher
Another change children must be aware of is the related to the fact that the class teacher as the main contact person is not there anymore. Since children usually have a strong emotional relation with their class teacher this might cause the feeling of being alone now. It might take time for a child to get used to this situation and to establish closer contact with one of teachers in a specific course who, for obvious reasons, cannot be as close as it was with the class teacher. Furthermore, children must get used to work with different teachers and different styles of teaching. Again, this can result is some of the children feeling lost and overwhelmed.
What can you do as a parent? It is important to observe your child and ask questions. As the concept of the principal teacher is different in the secondary cycle in a sense, that the principal teacher oversees his/her own subject only, it is worth monitoring the relationship of your child with all the teachers and be prepared to meet them individually. Each language section has a “titulaire”, in general it is the L1 or mathematics teacher. The “titulaire” is always a teacher who teaches the whole class. He is the main contact person whom a child can contact in case of a problem or a concerns and he will make the necessary steps to help the child. The “titulaire” is also the one who accompanies the children from the stage of “learning” towards the stage of “autonomy” during the year and to support them to become “independent”. The list of names and e-mail addresses is available on the school website. In the secondary cycle, there is an educational advisor to whom the children can and should turn to in case of problems; there is/will be one for each year. They can help with timetable issues etc. They may also address themselves to the secondary co-ordinator e.g. in relation to subject choices. Additionally, school psychologist can assist in difficult situations. You should also be aware, that there are “methodology classes” designed for the children who find the transition difficult. Please enquire about these with the secondary school coordinator, if you feel your child could benefit from them.
It is of utmost importance that the child establishes a good dialogue with the “titulaire” and that you get in touch with him as well to ensure an easy communication in case of a problem.
3. Composition of classes
How is the structure of the classes?
The maximum number of pupils per class is 26. It usually happens that the old primary cycle class is mixed with pupils from other classes or with children joining the school; thus your child will be together with many new pupils. It can be that he/she is no longer in the class with their best friend(s). However, please note that your child will attend different classes with different pupils (for example: art, second language, music), so he/she could still have some classes with their best friend(s).
What can you do as a parent? Again, talk to your child, ask question, be there to listen and support. If necessary, go to the “titulaire” or to the educational advisor there is/will be one for each year. They can help with timetable issues etc. They may also address themselves to the secondary co-ordinator e.g. in relation to subject choices. Additionally, school psychologist can assist in difficult situations.
How does the time table look like in Secondary? How many more hour do children have? Are there free lessons and what can/must children do during this time? Are there possibilities to do homework or studying?
Your child will receive a new timetable listing all subjects and classes: L1, L2, L3, mathematics, human sciences, integrated sciences, art, music, moral/religion, and sport. He/she will have to get used to changing classes during the breaks; it is not the teacher who comes to the classes! The breaks are usually short and there is not much time to study. Additionally, before classes, children must go to the lockers where they keep their books and material. The lunch break is sometimes sufficient to study; however, some of the children will have to attend the special courses of “rattrapage”.
What can you do to support your child? Talk to your child and ask questions! Sometimes, the reasons for being asked to attend the “rattrapage” are not clear. Talking to the respective teacher is advisable, to understand the problem and the duration of attendance. Make sure that your child is able to eat lunch and that he/she has overall a sufficient time for breaks during the week.
The school hours are published on the school website.
During the school year each child receives several times an up-dated individual timetable with the name of the teachers, the courses and room where the courses take place. Since this timetable is personalized, we recommend to keeping it in the agenda. In case a child lost the timetable, he/she can ask the “titulaire” for a copy.
How are the tests organised?
There is no single policy concerning the tests. Each teacher plans his/her tests in his/her on own responsibility, often without announcement. Sometimes, your child can have 2-4 tests in the same week; therefore it is very important that he/she studies regularly. Make sure that your child uses the calm periods for studying. Tests are based on revision and checking understanding, and to contribute to the continual assessment. On the contrary, exams are planned long in advance and have a big impact on the students progressing from year 4 onwards.
6. Evaluation for the bulletin
What are the criteria for establishing the notes in the bulletin?
The notes are composed of several criteria:
- results of the test
- results and quality of the homework
- evaluation of the team work
- evaluation of oral presentations
- attitude and motivation of the child in the class.
Please note that there is no fixed percentage for each criteria going into the note; each teacher has its own evaluation system.
Parents receive four times a year the results of the evaluations:
- November (autumn report)
- February (bulletin 1. semester)
- April (spring report)
- July (bulletin 2. semester)
Please note that in case that the results in three courses might be below 6/10, the school will inform you in February on the likelihood that your child must repeat the class. To support children in difficulties, the school is regularly organising additional courses during school hours. However, we recommend that in case of difficulties you talk to the concerned teachers and to discuss how to organise also external support.
7. Individual organisation needed
The change from a stable to a looser class and courses structure with various teachers who do not know children at the beginning, requires from the very beginning the capacity to organise themselves for the different lessons which is not always easy, in particular when your child is not aware of this change.
What can you do as a parent? Discus the timetable with your child, ask on regular basis what classes your children will have the next day, what books and material he/she needs do until it becomes a routine for the child. It is important to notice, as your child can be punished (by means of marks) for forgetting a copy-book with the homework!
8. Developing new study skills
One of the biggest challenges is that children must quickly develop new study skills: They must all become independent learners over time but it is clear that some children will take to this quicker than others. Thus it is very important that your child takes much care of all written information given by the teachers.
What can you do as a parent? It is of utmost importance that you discuss with your child this matter before the school year starts and explain to him/her what does it mean in practice and to follow the first weeks in secondary closely. You should regularly check the agenda and also the material to ensure that it is always in order.
In case of doubts, ask for an appointment with the coordinator.
9. Contact with teachers
How can I ensure that I receive all relevant information about my child?
You can contact each teacher by email but it is very important to attend the first individual meeting with the teachers which takes place mid-October. You will receive a paper in which you are asked to make the appointments with the teachers.
Will the workload increase?
Children might be concerned about the homework and being will be overwhelmed by it and indeed, the workload will increase. Generally the homework is intended to revise or to deepen what has been learned during the day/week at school. However, sometimes you might have an impression that your child has not been given enough homework. Please note, regular studying is very important, as the some tests are not announced.
What you do as a parent? Explain to you child that he/she needs to use those days where they get less homework for study/revisions. Make it a habit for your child to regularly study each day.
What is important for me to know as L2 is concerned?
As L2 is concerned there some particularities about which you should be aware: A lack of methodology and time management is very often (and normal) the first difficulty a child is confronted with; this is particularly challenging for children who join the European school system in S1.
What can I do as a parent? It is very important for the future success of your child in L2 to follow him/her very closely in the first weeks and to attribute the same importance to L2 as to the other courses. This includes also using regularly dictionaries, watching films, reading books, participating the “stages” or school trips organized in the countries of the L2. Encourage your child to go the courses “rattapage” which are often very useful to overcome the problems. In case of major difficulties, we recommend to look for the support of an external language teacher. In any case, if you discover that your child has problems in L2, get in touch with the teacher to discuss the best support.
Is there “Soutien” in secondary?
The European schools have a broad policy to integrate children with special needs into school life. In case your child has special needs (SEN) – on learning, behaviour or emotional level – it is very important that you speak with the school and explain what are his/her problems and to discuss with the school what support is the best for your child. For each child the situation must be analysed individually and thus close cooperation with school is essential to ensure a long-term success for your child. The SEN coordinator is Mr. Andy Smeets. He can explain you the procedures you must follow to get special support for your child. Each request of special support is treated individually based on objective evidence (e.g. medical or psychological reports) to decide on the best support for your child. The situation of your child is evaluated each year.
Please note that the budget for “Soutien” in all European schools is considerable reduced during the last years by the Board of Governors.
13. List of books and material
Do parents get this kind of lists?
As in the primary cycle, you will be informed about the school books and material for L1 and L2 in advance, usually already in June. Additionally, the information is published on the school website. You will have plenty of time to buy the books. A useful advice concerning the books for L2: wait until the beginning of the school year because your child might pass a test to establish his/her level, in particular when your child never had a second language before. He/she might be regrouped and he/she will need another book.
14. Study room
Is there a space at school where the children can study or doing their homework?
There is a study room at school in which children can prepare their courses or doing homework. Therefore, a child must behave properly and respect the silence of this room. If children want to chat, they must go out.
Does my child need a locker?
It is possible to rent a locker after having addressed a request to school at the beginning of the school year. The locker costs 20€ per school year. The locker works with a chip chart of which the child must take care! Otherwise one cannot open the locker. In case of lost, the child must get a new carte with the same code which costs 5 €.
The locker is an important “space” for a child in secondary because he/she can leave books and material for the different course in it. At the same time the child must be aware that it needs always a bit of time to go to the locker and pick up what he/she needs.
What to do in case of absence?
You must inform school (email address of the contact person published on the school website) before 9.00 am in case your child cannot attend the courses. In case of illness, a certificate must be presented for two or more days of absence. Absences in case of family or personal reasons are not allowed, except after authorisation of the school.
Please note that absences before or after school holidays are not allowed and in case of absences above 10% of the school days, the transfer to the superior class might be looked at into more details by the class council.