Reading time: 4 minutes. Relevant programme: SSAT Leadership Legacy Project
Emily Robinson, Y7 head, Simon Balle All-through School, describes the outcomes of their efforts to give students, parents and teachers a positive start to the secondary phase
My previous blog described what we were trying to achieve with our revised transition programme. Here is how it worked out, starting with the transition evening for parents, and transition day for students.
- On arrival, many parents immediately asked when they would find out about their child’s form group, as the children were all waiting at home for a text. We firmly dismissed these questions and put a strong emphasis on to the importance of the transition, expectations, health and wellbeing and the structure of secondary school. Our message to them was: the purpose of the evening is for you to know how best to support your child, and what to expect / how to prepare them for secondary school.
- The parents were engaged, listened carefully, took on board the comments made and the issues we have had in the past. We made it clear that if parents support the school, and ensure their child is ready to learn, then that teamwork will bring the best results.
- We had very few questions at the end. Parents now understood how crucial it is to get their child into a routine rather than worry about who will be in their form group (in general more a concern by the parents than the children); they will make new friends and try new things. It seemed we were successful in putting across our ethos of ‘creating tomorrow’s citizens today’.
- All staff were on board with the expectations of the evening, so the parents were given clear messages and there were high levels of respect.
Transition day (students)
- Students arrived bright and early, excited to sit down in the hall with their friends and keen to get started
- Following the meeting with parents, I knew which were the anxious students I should look out for, acknowledge in the hall, and ensure the support was already visible.
- My opening talk, went through expectations and plans for the day, introduced the tutor team, and showed a motivational video.
- The students then went off to meet their new form tutor and peers in separate classrooms. There were no issues at all, the students were eager to meet new people, and this was a huge success.
- The theme of ‘a day in the life of a year 7’ was very appropriate for them to get used to moving to rooms for different classes, meet different staff, and get used to different personalities but with similar expectations and ethos.
- The form tutors carried out a lesson including brief elements of maths, English and science lessons, ensuring students knew the equipment lists, and setting the basis for consistency.
- At Lunch time they seemed particularly grown up, using the canteen, and then playing / sitting on the AstroTurf. Many of the students introduced themselves to staff members, sat with new people or played with the equipment.
- Tutor team took part in the whole day, supporting the students at break and lunch time, showing the staff as a support group who work together and portray the same expectations. This is the culture we promote at SBAS. At tutor team meetings, everyone shared their ideas, which meant the tutors felt a part of the year group and were keen to take part in the day.
- The final task of the day for students was in their form groups with the tutor, where they had to invent an object to be used around school, putting the emphasis on teamwork (Dragons Den task). The tutors then presented their groups’ ideas to the dragons in the final assembly. The students loved this competition.
- We had no complaints initially about form groups and just one parent asked for their child to move forms.
After transition day:
- First two days back, off timetable
- Tutor team sessions on the role of a tutor
- Phasels Wood residential trip.
Inset and first two days back
On the Inset day, I briefed all staff on the new year 7 students, going through expectations, working together and consistency, student needs, SEN, PP, most able etc. I was then confident that staff were working together with a common goal and expectations. The first two days back seemed to have been a great success.
However, the baseline test that Y7 students completed on the first two days back seemed to be done just for the requirement of baselines. Given the timing, it is difficult for departments to analyse them and put strategies in place, as it is already too late. Also it is likely the students will have forgotten some content over the summer. So I think for next year we should have a two-day transition in July, one day where they carry out the day in the life of a year 7, and another where they sit the two baseline tests and carry out some team-building tasks.
Phasels Wood trip
We took the year 7 students on a camping trip to Phasels Wood activity centre (run by Hertfordshire Scouts) very early on. This had a huge impact on the students getting to know each other and the staff, and about working in teams. This also supports the Simon Balle aims of creating tomorrow’s citizens today – both students and parents recognised this and wrote positively about it in their feedback. Next year we will be going to a new PGL centre ; however, it is vital for our staff to continue to get as involved as we did at Phasels Wood.
On the whole, feedback was very positive. The transition process was a success, and our students have settled very quickly into our community. But for next year, feedback has prompted some changes to consider.
Students’ key points to consider for next year
- Want to know sooner about the clubs on offer and when they are.
- More of an idea of how homework works and how much they will get.
- Clearer iPad expectations from network .
Parents’ key points to consider for next year
- Form tutors to give out medical forms would be helpful due to timing.
- Move subject evenings for parents and students to end of summer term.
- More work to be done with primary schools after students have finished SATS. This time could be used to emphasise key maths and English skills.
- Parents and their children meet the teacher early on in the autumn term.
- More information on iPad setup.
- More information on the grading system on go4schools data system.
Tutor feedback on Phasels Wood experience
My first year as head of year 7 was made significantly smoother and more effective by the focus on effective collaboration. Consistency was established from the outset, and parents were regularly involved. Although the collaboration was initially a lot more work and time-consuming, the effects on parents, tutors, SLT and students have made it worthwhile.
Maintaining communication levels has been crucial throughout the year, and needs continual strong promotion, as it strengthens the confidence levels of both students and tutors. Learning from my experiences so far, I look forward to the next phase of transition.
Emily Robinson is a Leadership Legacy Fellow, completing the first year programme of the programme in 2017/18. Find out more about the unique opportunity for SSAT member schools.
Read on the SSAT blog: Collaboration to improve year 6/7 transition
Emily Robinson, year 7 leader, Simon Balle All-Through School