Moving to a new school can be a daunting prospect but the transition from primary to secondary is especially so.
It is widely acknowledged within education that a thriving child may lose potential during this period.
For students across the country this nerve-wracking time has been made even more difficult by the upheaval caused by lockdown as the country battles coronavirus.
The usual face-to-face visits and group meetings in schools to prepare pupils for the next stage in their education journey have all been cancelled following Government guidelines on social distancing.
However at Wykham Park Academy a digital alternative using video calls and meetings has been set up to support Year 6 pupils and ensure they have a successful start at the secondary school in September.
Justine Williams, Senior Assistant Principal, reveals why the Banbury Partnerships, which involves other schools in the area, is so important during this process.
Following the Government’s recent announcement about Year 6 students returning to school on 1st June as part of wider reopening plans following lockdown, Ms Williams also provides her top tips to parents to prepare for this and for the start of secondary school later this year.
It is normally this time of year that Ms Williams will go and meet every single Year 6 student who will be starting at Wykham Park Academy in September.
This will give her an opportunity to learn about their friendship groups, likes and dislikes. It is also a chance to meet with the class teacher of every student who has been allocated a place.
Ms Williams is also introduced to any support staff that may be assigned to a child because they have extra needs, for example a Senco (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator) or welfare officer.
Wykham Park is part of the well-established Banbury Partnerships initiative which funds a numeracy and literacy network for primary schools in the area and has allowed the academy to build excellent working relationships with teachers and leaders at feeder primaries.
Ms Williams explained to the Banbury Guardian: ‘’The transition process and the work that goes into it is an investment. You’re investing in the students.
‘’The primary schools have had these children for six years and they want to know that the little people that they have nurtured and helped to grow are going to be looked after when they go to secondary school.
‘’One year we had lots of students from Harriers Academy coming to Wykham Park and they all used different coloured papers for potential dyslexia issues. As I had already been liaising with the school we knew to order different coloured exercise books for the students.’’
This year Ms Williams said virtual meetings will be set up to answer questions that are worrying Year 6 students and for her to meet teachers.
Staff have also been busy preparing videos for new pupils that provide virtual tours of the school’s departments and also introduce teachers.
Shortly after half-term numeracy and literacy work, designed to ensure that students starting at Wykham are all on the same page academically, and normally handed out in physical packs, will be available via Google Classroom and also emailed to students.
Fun activities are also lined up as part of the transition process. Earlier in the year, pupils from nearby Harriers and Dashwood, which are feeder primary schools, came to watch a matinee performance (pictured below) of Hairspray at Wykham Park.
Best tips for June 1st wider opening of schools and preparation for secondary school
Explains Ms Williams ‘’A lot of parents have huge insecurities about supporting their children when it comes to preparing them to go to secondary school.
‘’This year parents will have had their children at home since March and have developed secure home-based routines and great attachments to each other. I can imagine that this would now compound their fears associated with starting a new school with new staff and new students.’’
Ms Williams said the following four tips will help parents with the return to school from 1st June for Year 6 students & the process of a child starting secondary school in September.
- For Year 6 students going back next week, make your daily lockdown exercise a walk to the school so children can start to familiarise themselves with the route again (if it is in preparation for September the journey should be to the secondary school in the summer holidays).
- For Year 6 students planning to return from June 1, set children the task of packing their backpack for school so they start to get in the habit of organising themselves for school. Those not planning to return to school until September can start this activity towards the end of the summer break.
- Build in a daily routine to get up and ready for school, many children will have been allowed to have delayed starts to the day if they have been home schooling. If they are returning from 1st June, now is a good time to get into the routine of setting an alarm and waking up at 7am.
- Children need reassurance and the justification of why you are asking them to do it [get ready for school with a routine]. Reassure your child, that yes, they will be scared but they have met the new teachers who will be looking after them. It’s about trying to reduce the fear and anxiety of parents and students.