5 ways in which starting secondary school is like visiting a theme park.

We all know that starting secondary school is a big deal.  Every 11 year old worth their salt has heard the talk about moving from being ‘a big fish in a small pond to a small fish in a big pond’ and felt themselves quake a little at the knee at the thought of jumping into that ‘big pond’.  Across thousands of households in the UK, the summer holiday before starting ‘big school’ was a frenzy of preparations for the increased responsibilities of secondary school life and those last few days of August were a hotbed of anxiety and anticipation.

Over the last 7 weeks, all our newly hatched secondary school students have been finding their feet in a terrifying new world.   In our household, it has been a time of oscillating emotions and momentous breakthroughs and half-term really couldn’t have been any more welcome.  In short, it’s been a rollercoaster ride and this is not the only likeness between starting secondary school and visiting a theme park.  Here’s a few more:


As any Year 6 student can tell you, after 7 years in primary education, you know what’s what.  Nothing surprises you and nothing about school is EVER exciting.  So when familiarity breeds contempt, what could be better than a colossal change to mix things up a bit and recapture the sense of exhilaration that accompanied those very first days in reception class….or indeed the anticipation of spending a day riding rollercoasters at the theme park of your choice!


Now I might be wimpier than many when it comes to theme park rides, but if you tell me that the confident, smiling people in the queue for Stealth at Thorpe Park (a towering, torturous monstrosity of a ride) don’t feels a flurry of terror as they wait to hurtle to their doom, I won’t believe you.  In a similar vein, as those wide-eyed, soon-to-be Year 7s careered closer and closer to the day they would don their shiny new uniforms for real (rather than to make their grandma tear-up with pride at how big they’d grown), their barely supressed excitement was certainly starting to morph into a fear of the new and unknown.


If you’ve ever been on a truly impressive rollercoaster, you’ll know how it works.  You creep up and up and up until you feel on top of the world and then you rush headlong towards the ground before twisting round and round until your stomach is in your mouth and your head feels like it’s gone a few rounds with Mike Tyson. In my recent experience, this is an awful lot like starting secondary school:  the new subjects and new friends make you feel on top of the world and then the adrenaline wears off a little and you come crashing down only to find yourself in a twisting tunnel of homework deadlines and after school activities, until finally you come to a sudden, jerking halt when you arrive at half-term slightly broken and unable to draw a complete breath.


There’s nothing more satisfying than conquering a particularly daunting rollercoaster:  knowing you have faced down your fears is guaranteed to make even the most modest among us feel decidedly smug.  And so it is with starting secondary school:  the knowledge that your 11 year old self has made it through a whole half term’s worth of finding your way to lessons; bringing all your equipment on the right day (or having a kind parent deliver it on the days when you forgot); remembering what time your music lesson is and finding your way there (at least some of the time); and negotiating a new, and possibly daunting, journey to school, is enough to make anyone feel a glow of pride and self-satisfaction.  And rightly so.  Well done you fabulous new Year 7s:  you’ve totally got this!


It never fails to surprise me how utterly exhausting a day at a theme park can be given that most of it is spent standing around in queues, but there’s no mistaking that feeling of complete collapse at the end of a long day having fun.  For any new Year 7 students among your acquaintance, the months of September and October have been one, long trip to a theme park and in the past few weeks, those tell-tale signs of complete exhaustion may have started to show.  It might have shown in their unreasonable levels of irritation at younger siblings, or in the unexpected hysterical tears when the ‘multigrain shapes’ cereal ran out.  It could have been blindingly obvious from the huge dark rings encircling their formerly sparking eyes, or in the way they walked home stooped over and stumbling. Let’s face it, there’s no getting away from the fact that starting secondary school takes its toll on the youngsters in our care and so we can all welcome the arrival of half term with open arms.

For those fledgling Year 7s, half-term will be a chance to relax and unwind; a chance to restore their energy for the manic 7 weeks until Christmas; and a chance to have fun.

Now, does anyone fancy a half-term trip to a theme park?

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