Key stage 3 is a huge step up from primary education, where your child will explore subjects with greater depth, allowing them to establish their interests. Class work will mainly be comprised of table-top learning, though there will be plenty of group discussions, projects and coursework. There will be an increase in homework, with most schools setting about 1-2 hours of homework a day. This may sound quite high but it will include ongoing projects and coursework, as well as revision. Most secondary schools prefer to split classes into sets based on ability. Although the same curriculum will be taught to all, those in higher sets may be set more challenging tasks, whereas those in lower sets may be given additional support.
11-14 year olds experience lots of changes to both their body and their way of thinking, and so may experience mood swings, drastic changes to their interests and image, and wishing to spend more time on their own. Key Stage 3 children often see themselves as at the centre of the world and so may react dramatically to small changes in their routine, such as a bad hair day or not being able to go to a social event. As the body changes so quickly, it can take some time for the mind to catch up, and so young teenagers can become clumsy and uncoordinated during puberty. Try to encourage exercise and a healthy diet to help improve this.
Odd behaviour to look out for
Puberty can cause 11-14 year olds to feel self-conscious about their changing bodies, and parents shouldn’t resort to teasing or misjudged humour to lighten the subject. Treat the subject sensitively and provide as much reassurance as your pre-teen needs. Although it is usual for teenagers to feel a little uncomfortable and awkward about their bodies at first, keep an eye on any potentially serious body image issues such as irrational concern with weight or a fixation on a certain part of their body. This can quickly escalate into low self-esteem or potentially harmful behaviour such as extreme dieting. Make sure you are always available to discuss issues, and don’t rule out counselling if you feel the issue is becoming excessive.
Pre-teens often struggle to balance their relationship with their parents with the desire for more independence, and may swing between locking themselves away in their bedroom for hours, and bouncing around the kitchen wanting to tell you everything. Your child grows and changes so rapidly and it often works best to adjust your expectations of your child each day and to continually reaffirm your relationship with them. Take each day as it comes and don’t let yesterday’s tantrum influence your reaction to today’s positive mood. Although some withdrawal and distance is to be expected, be aware of prolonged signs of depression or aggression, and don’t tolerate extreme acting out such as missing school or substance abuse. Your child may be exploring their identity, and although part of this will be to test where the boundaries are, it may be better in the long term to show some leniency so that you have room to stand your ground on larger issues. Allow your child to practise good judgement and make their own mistakes, but always be watchful of damaging behaviour and know when to step in and provide guidance.
Visit our Educational Books page for further support for you and your child during Key Stage 3.