A big step

The transition from elementary to secondary is an important stage in youth development and they must cope with many transformations, whether physical, emotional, psychological and social. They also face important changes in their school life, such as attending a new much bigger school, making new friends from different backgrounds, meeting new teachers, being the ‘youngest’ again, etc.

Excerpt from the Table régionale de l’éducation de la Mauricie (TREM) initiative

What is a school transition?

A school transition is the period when your child experiences and adjusts to a change in their school environment. The transition may cause feelings of insecurity, but you can help them better manage the challenge by explaining to them the changes they will experience in relationships, their way of functioning and of learning.

Changes in the school environment

Elementary Secondary
The organization of subjects is pre-determined, directed and adjusted by the teacher. Course periods are pre-determined and fixed. Students are responsible for informing themselves about and attending their next class.
The student’s material is stored in the classroom. Students store their materials in a locker and are responsible for transporting them to each class.
The schedule includes recess: the student is obligated to go outside. They return to the same classroom, except for specialization classes. The student’s schedule includes breaks to retrieve items from their locker and move between classes.
For lunch, meals are usually brought by the student, and lunch periods are supervised by daycare staff. Students can also eat at home. The student is free at lunch time to bring a meal from home, use the cafeteria, or go out to eat (sometimes under certain conditions).

Changes in social relations

Elementary Secondary
Students generally come from the same neighborhood. The students come from different neighborhoods or municipalities in the same territory.
The student keeps the same class group throughout the year for all subjects. Students can have different groups depending on subject. Different options bring together students with common interests.
Children interact with other students during recess, daycare and extracurricular activities. The student interacts with others during breaks, and sociocultural and extracurricular activities.
The student is led by one teacher who helps to create a meaningful bond. The student works with several teachers. One teacher is appointed to create a connection and reference if needed.
Psychosocial support is available in the event of conflict, bullying, behavioral difficulties, etc. Psychosocial support is also available in the event of conflict, bullying, behavioral difficulties, etc.

Changes in learning methods

Elementary Secondary
Homework and lessons are usually given for completion at home and completed within a week. Homework and lessons are usually given for completion at home and can take several weeks.
The passing grade is 60%. The passing grade is also 60%.
Students with special needs have access to a multidisciplinary team to support them and ensure success. Support is also available for students with special needs. Students are encouraged to use the available services to support them in their learning

Parental involvement is an essential and undeniable success factor for youth. Sensing that you care about what they are doing at school will motivate and encourage your child to persevere. From day to day, you can help and support him with simple gestures. It is often enough just to be present, to listen and take an interest in his schoolwork, as well as meet his teachers, discuss issues dealt with in class, current events, encourage them to visit the library and get involved in school life.

Source: Your child in secondary school, MEES brochure

Some young people experience this transition smoothly while others may experience greater insecurity, emotional disorders, hyperactivity, aggression, lack of academic motivation and decreased school perseverance.

What you can do to make the transition easier:

  • Make sure your child has enough time and a quiet space to do his work.
  • Help him develop good work habits like managing their time and setting priorities so that they can approach schoolwork in a disciplined manner and avoid deadline-induced panic.
  • Have regular discussions about the situations he experiences at school.
  • Watch for signs that that he may be having unusual difficulties.
  • Regularly communicate with school personnel from elementary school onwards. This is the best way to learn about resources your child may have access to, especially upon entering high school.

Inspired by: Les transitions à l’école : Croyances, faits et ressources, Université de Sherbrooke (In French)

Presented by the CSDN

For adolescents, moving from elementary to secondary brings its share of worries: forgetting a locker combination, making new friends, having multiple teachers, being among large numbers of students, not finding a class, more homework, etc.

10 simple and concrete tips to ease the transition:

  1. Buy a lock during the summer and have them practice using it.
  2. If possible, visit the school and locate the toilets, gymnasiums, locker rooms and classes (if possible, travel with them on the first day).
  3. Show them how to use an agenda and fill out their course schedule.
  4. Use a color code for school subjects (e.g., math = green).
  5. Determine a time and place for studying and equip them with the necessary supplies (a duplicate calculator, ruler, dictionary, lined paper, etc.).
  6. Find a place by the front door for their school bag on school nights so it is does not cause stress during the morning rush.
  7. Pay particular attention to folders (if they are disorganized, homework will certainly be lost).
  8. Buy small shelves to put in their locker and create more storage space.
  9. Take an interest in what he is doing his hobbies, concerns and ideas.
  10. Just listen to them!

Help your child pick a secondary school that will let them reach their full potential!

Pick out the schools you should visit

Public schools: The commissions scolaires du Québec website has a list of public schools, general information and the dates of open houses (they are usually in September or October).

Private schools: To find out about private schools, check this directory:  l’annuaire de l’enseignement privé.

Talk about it with your child

Before you go on any visits, it is important to ask your child what they expect from their future school. There are some basic things to keep in mind, too:

  • Does your child want to follow a particular program? For example: international studies, athletic studies, the arts, etc.
  • How will they get to school? (Will they walk or take public transport?)

Get informed

When you visit schools with your child, ask questions about the things you need to know. For example:

  • What are the deadlines for registration and admission tests?
  • What is the daily schedule? (When do classes start and end?)
  • How much homework and projects do students have to do?
  • How does the school communicate with parents?
  • What extracurricular activities are offered?
  • What special services are offered  (help with homework, remedial education, career counselling)?

Your child can talk to students who are there to welcome visitors some questions. For example, your child can ask them:

  • What they like about their school?
  • Are any special activities for first year students?

Take a look at the school’s facilities

This is the perfect time to check out classrooms, gyms, music and dance rooms, the library, science labs and the cafeteria.

Take notes

It’s a good idea to write down things you notice (atmosphere, advantages, disadvantages) right after each visit so that you can think things over later. For help with this, check out our tool, “Secondary school visits: my observations”.


Writing: Marie-Claude Ouellet
Scientific review: Mathieu Labine-Daigneault, orthopédagogue
Editing: Marie-Pierre Gazaille

Translation: Jennifer Westlake
Editing (English version): Mariah McKenney

  • Many high schools organize visiting days and contact with school staff towards the end of the school year. Find out the dates for these open houses and attend.
  • Several schools offer specific educational projects (multi-sports, theatre, languages, sciences, international component, etc.). Learn more from school administrators in your area. All secondary schools have their own educational project and success plan.
  • Visit the websites, blogs and Facebook pages of schools that interest you and your child. They are full of useful information to facilitate your child’s transition.

Inspired by : Les transitions à l’école : Croyances, faits et ressources, de l’Université de Sherbrooke.


  • Guide to supporting a quality transition from elementary school to secondary school (MEES presentation)
  • J’ai ma place au secondaire (in French) is a simple, user-friendly website that will answer questions from children and parents.
  • Les transitions à l’école : croyances, faits et ressources (in French) gives you a quick overview of how parents can help their child make the transition from elementary to secondary in a positive way.
  • Fais le grand saut! (in French) Take the leap! This guide is intended for your child… but since the transition to secondary school is experienced by the whole family, some useful notes are offered for everyone! Why not use this guide to begin a dialogue with your child?

Primary-secondary transition

  • Information listed in the RIRE virtual library (CTREQ) (in French)
  • ÉTAPE (Université Laval) study on transition, adaptation and school perseverance: Consult the results on the research project website in the Bilan des résultats (in French).

 Organizations that can help

Some organizations offer help to parents who want to support their child, as well as to students who seek learning support resources:

Discovery – Stress and Children

  • A Radio-Canada program that aired in 2009-2010, examining the stress experienced by youth, especially during the transition from primary to secondary school. Watch the video (in French)

Primary-secondary transition

  • Grandes-Marées high school principal Alain Bélanger talks about what is being done at his school to promote the transition. Watch the video (in French)
  • School transitions: beliefs, facts and resources. What can parents do to ease their child’s transition from primary to secondary school? This brochure produced by Université de Sherbrooke professors is aimed at parents whose children are preparing to go through a school transition. Download the brochure (in French)

Can parents have personalized contact with teachers, management and staff in high school?

  • Yes. Regardless of its size, schools make sure that parents can easily communicate with teachers, administration and school resources. However, certain confidentiality rules exist once the student turns 14, and calls on the services of certain professionals (guidance, psycho-educational, psychology, etc.).
  • Schools are committed to offering parents measures to closely monitor their child’s school life: parent meetings, agenda, planning sheet, monitoring absences, etc.
  • The use of a portal for parents to access their child’s file is an increasing priority in schools.

Are absences monitored in high school?

  • Every secondary school has a system to monitor absences and inform parents.

How is supervision ensured?

  • One assigned teacher (tutor, teacher, supervisor) ensures the link between parents, school staff and the student. The teacher knows the student well, follows their progress closely and cares about their well-being and success.
  • In addition to the presence of the teacher, a multi-disciplinary team assists students in their progress and takes care of their integral development. If they experience difficulties, the school will inform their parents and invite them to collaborate with the school team.

Could my child be offered drugs, robbed or bullied in high school?

  • The vast majority of high schools are safe and supervised environments.
  • Violence, drugs, intimidation, gangs and muggings are no more present there than in most other milieus.
  • Problem cases are the exception. Surveillance is close, and responses are swift when the situation demands.

Do students work with more than one teacher? Do they often change locations?

  • Each subject is taught by a specialist, but teachers work together to promote student success.
  • Classroom changes are more frequent than in elementary school, since there are specialized classrooms such as laboratories, music room, gymnasium, etc. Students adapt very well to these changes which encourage their autonomy.

What is a typical daily high school schedule?

  • Schedules vary from school to school. The entry range is between 7:30 a.m. and 9 a.m.; the departure is from 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Contact your local high schools for the exact times.
  • The school day is divided into 4 or 5 periods, varying from 60 to 75 minutes each, on a 9- or 10-day cycle.

Is parental involvement less important in high school?

  • On the contrary, it is a decisive success factor. Even as they become more independent, adolescents need parental encouragement and support throughout their secondary studies.
  • Your support is a vital factor in their success.

Is it more difficult to do well in high school?

  • The more we advance in our studies, the greater the requirements, but they are adapted to the student’s evolution.
  • In secondary school, students benefit from services to help them organize themselves. In addition, secondary schools are implementing various measures to promote their success. There are many examples: personalized follow-up, homework help, exam re-writes, educational support measures, peer helpers, remedial lessons and school guidance services.
  • Parental support is also essential.

Are students with behavioral problems integrated into regular classes?

  • Just as in elementary school, some students with behavioral problems are integrated into regular classes. These students benefit from special support services.

Source: CSMV website

Réseau des Instances régionales de concertation sur la persévérance scolaire et la réussite éducative du Québec

SOURCE Réseau des Instances régionales de concertation sur la persévérance scolaire et la réussite éducative du Québec