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What parents can do to help their kids get to school on time and be more organised

The first year in secondary school is a big step up from primary and can coincide with the onset of puberty. Students have to learn to be organised and some find it more difficult than others. Here are some tips to avoid detention

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 March, 2018, 12:32pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 March, 2018, 12:32pm

My daughter is in her first year in high school; she is completely disorganised and close to being late for school most days, a Hong Kong parent writes. It takes her at least half an hour to pack her bag in the morning, and even then she forgets to take homework that she’s actually completed and gets detention. She is so concerned that her hair looks exactly right it takes her even longer to get ready. It’s always a mad rush and causes lots of arguments and an unpleasant start to the day.

First, moving from primary to secondary school is a huge transition for all students. Your daughter has gone from the security of having one main teacher most, if not all of the time to encountering a range of different subject teachers based in different classrooms. It can be challenging and even overwhelming for some pupils initially, and certainly demands a high level of organisation skills.

Additionally, many Year Seven students are starting or going through puberty, so with the related hormones and changes in the brain, it can be a tricky time. Your daughter’s appearance is likely to be near the top of her agenda and getting her hair just right in the morning will be of paramount importance.

In order to avoid the rush and accompanying unpleasantness in the morning you may need to negotiate setting the alarm clock earlier. Also, insist that her school bag is packed the night before and the timetable carefully checked, including homework for the following day.

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The school uniform should be laid out for the next morning to ensure a smooth and stress-free start to the day. Preferably avoid, or even ban, the use of phones or tablets in the morning, which can delay things further.

Disorganisation can sometimes be put down to a lack of maturity. These days schools generally have good pastoral departments to support Year Seven students who are really struggling. Developing good organisational skills is important to your daughter’s success and happiness at school. Negative feedback from teachers for forgetting homework or being late can spiral, affecting her self-esteem and enjoyment of school. If she continues to get detention, she will learn the hard way.

Successful organisation is about creating and using systems. It may help if your daughter displays her timetable in a prominent place as a visual prompt. She could highlight lessons such as physical education, music or food technology for which she needs to take certain equipment to school and could include regular after-school activities, therefore giving her a clear overview of the week. There may be room in her school diary to mark down the days for handing in homework.

Secondary school demands textbooks, workbooks and folders for a wide variety of subject areas.

Provide her with an easily accessible shelf to store these. She could separate completed assignments and “to do” work. Encourage her to organise worksheets and notes in a binder using dividers or colour-coded notebooks. Keeping a tidy, clear work desk enables the mind to focus on the task in hand. A messy environment often leads to things getting lost and a general sloppy approach to work. It can also help to have a clock on the wall to aid time awareness and avoid frequent checking of mobile phones, which can be a constant distraction.

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Establish regular routines at home to help your daughter stick to patterns of behaviour and make sure she is well rested so she can think clearly during the school day. Keep a communal calendar visible listing family activities and commitments including events in and out of school.

At this age it is important to give out some responsibilities at home, such as setting the table, tidying a bedroom or reading to a younger sibling, as well being open to initiatives of her own. In turn this will encourage her to become more responsible and independent as time goes on and gives you a chance to give positive feedback. At times, you can offer small incentives and rewards for this help.

It is only a small percentage of students who never seem to gain a grasp of organisation skills. For most it comes with familiarity and practice during their time in Year Seven.

Julie McGuire is a former Hong Kong primary-school teacher