Information Centre

Starting at a new school

Managing Independence

There are loads of reasons why you might be starting at a new school – leaving primary school to move onto secondary, choosing a different school that suits you better, transferring because of problems or even moving house.

Whatever the reason, moving into a new environment like that can be a pretty nerve-wracking experience, but there’s loads of ways to make it easier.

Things that might cause you stress include:

  • being in an unfamiliar environment
  • feeling sad about leaving old school friends
  • feeling worried about making new friends
  • being nervous or worried about your workload
  • having low energy levels as a result of getting organised for school
  • being bullied or harassed by other students – if this is happening, check out bullying for some advice.

Remember you’re not alone, and lots of other people have felt the same in this situation.

Some suggestions for making the move to a new school as stress-free as possible are:

Getting involved

A good way to make new friends is get involved in activities that interest you. This way you’re meeting people that you’ve got stuff in common with. You may want to get involved in:

  • sport (most schools offer a range of different team sports)
  • music
  • drama
  • debating
  • student council.

Breaking the ice

Other people are probably feeling nervous about making new friends. You can make it easier if you suggest doing something to break the ice. You may like to ask someone in your class to have a game of football or go see a movie.

A great thing about starting a new school is that it provides an opportunity to break out of those cliques. It’s often easy to identify different groups: popular, academic, sporty, rebellious, etc.

Making the effort with anyone (no matter what group they sit in at lunchtime) can help you to be more open-minded.

Express yourself

Being able to express how you’re feeling can help to release some of the tension you might be experiencing.

There are a number of ways you can do it – talking to people, playing music, writing or even going for a run.

Stay in contact with old friends

While you’re making new friend, try to stay in touch with your old ones. Talk to them about what it’s like starting at the new school.

They might be going through some of the same stuff, and you might be able to help each other out. If you can’t see them face-to-face, send them an email, chat online or give them them a call.

Have something to look forward to

If you’re worried about the first week, or any week, sometimes it helps to plan ahead so that you have something to look forward to.

Make a plan to catch up with friends after school or do something special at the weekend.

Get your bearings

Try to get familiar with your timetable, where your classes are, who your teachers are and where to find things.

Adjusting to big changes like starting school often takes a bit of time, particularly if you’re transferring at a time when other people have already settled in. Letting yourself get used to the change is important.

Try to take it one day at a time. It’s likely it’ll start to get easier as you become more familiar with the school routine and start to make new friends. You’ll have new experiences, and learn things that will stay with you for life.

If you’re up for giving your new school a real chance, and try to enjoy it, then you’re pretty much set.

If you’re worried

Talk to someone about how you’re feeling if you are worried about the change. This may be a friend or family member. Talking to someone who’s not so close to the situation might also really help.

They can give you a different perspective and have other suggestions for dealing with the situation. This may be someone like a school counsellor, school nurse, or a teacher. It’s part of their job to be there to support students.

If you’d prefer to talk to someone anonymously you could contact Childline for free by phoning 1800 66 66 66, by texting ‘Talk’ to 50101 or by using their online chat. You could also contact Samaritans for free by phoning 116 123 or emailing Both organisations have people available 24 hours a day to talk to.