You go from being the big fish in a small pond, to a very small fish in a very big pond…
No matter what size primary a child enters secondary into, it is a worryingly exciting period of time. The young person has to deal with not only their own emotions but the emotions of their parents/carers, their current teachers, future teachers, SEND officers/SENCOs, and any other internal/external agency such as the Virtual School or Social Services for example.
All bodies involved in this ‘moving over’ process are keen to ensure there is a successful transition completed.
But what is effective transition? Who is it for?
Here are a few ideas and examples of what we put in place to help transition our students from their current school to their new school.
A large site is intimidating! Bells ringing, a new layout, disorientation from a different journey to school, the buzz of hundreds of students meandering the corridors and with various adults ushering (shouting) students to ‘hurry up and get to their lessons’ this is usually one of the most worried about areas of coming to a new school.
Will I be late? What happens if I get lost? Who will help me?
All of our tutor groups are vertical. Students are therefore buddied up instantly. In the first few weeks of term, there are students positioned in strategic locations to support ‘lost’ students. We also arrange for students to visit the school prior to joining. This is especially true for the vulnerable students. Who we have arranged weekly, Wednesday afternoon sessions for. This is because school finishes early on a Wednesday for Years 8-13, so its a nice and quiet time for the students to visit.
We also run a summer holiday camp, to help students understand and get to know the facilities.
- New Staff/Different Teachers
We hold a ‘Welcome to College Morning’ where we introduce all of our students to their tutors, heads of year and so on. This is facilitated via the primary schools, so all 270 new students due to join us, visit us on that morning. The whole school is shut for this morning as to allow all tutors/staff to be present.
The only flaw with this system which can’t be avoided is new staff can not be present to introduce themselves in place of any leaving staff. Therefore some students may not actually visit their new tutor till September. The first day. Every department area has a photo list of their staff with their names and roles. This will be updated prior to students arriving.
During this morning we also have all of our ‘forms’ available for parents/carers and have people at hand to help fill in/explain and show what needs to be done. My aim is to move this to an electronic system. It would be brilliant if the Government just simply transferred this information over automatically. We are losing many students yearly who simply do not apply for their FSM despite being eligible.
During this welcome to college morning, all of my Learning Support Staff will already have visited the students who need extra support on this day and will be buddied up with these students. They will act as key workers both for the students and their parents/carers/teachers.
To support further we also run Parent/Carer evenings, where we provide either appointments or drop in sessions for parents to just come and ask questions…Students are of course welcome here too!
- Academic Expectations
We also run two days of Welcome to Cheney Transition Days/ Transfer Days! Both the days are action packed with numerous activities that instill our high expectations and agile teaching and learning policy. This year the students were guided through the magic of Odysseus Journey!
A transition booklet is provided both on this day and prior to arriving for Year 6 teachers to talk through what will be happening. My team, will again have gone through this information with students in their own schools during our visits.
All studens recieve a Cheney Choices handout explaining how our Library works. It provides information about local libraries and provides a varied reading list for students. Our librarian also introduces herself to all of our students to ensure they know who to approach for further guidance.
To create a buzz for learning and a love for our school our amazing Transition team also facilitate an outreach programme throughout the year. The aim is to demystify secondary school and to create awe and wonder outside of the conventional curriculum some students may have had to be so rigidity taught. Click here to read about our Festival of the Lost Cities and much more!
We are extremely lucky to have the Iris Project running the famous Classics Centre here at Cheney School. They are heavily involved in provided opportunities for all students, from whatever background, from teaching Latin to now leading us through beginning the first Museum School in the United Kingdom?
During these two days we also give all students a GL Literacy Assessment, and a Sandwell Numeracy assessment. These are not ‘tests’ that are given to verify students SATs results, but give us a detailed insight into their current ability in different conditions. The information we receive from these assessments is then placed on student profiles and for the SEND/PP students in their respective registers. Teachers are then expected to use this information for their SPOT folders.
A couple of years ago, we also created this Welcome to Cheney Video, which is available on Youtube, sent through to all of ‘our’ primary schools. We also have a business card with the link/QR code which is handed out at all events.
We also take a photo of all of our students during their Transfer days!
The main aim of successful transition is to not making it all too daunting. Allow for students to visit, visit often and get to know the site, staff and their expectations.
Ensure that vulnerable students information is shared and shared accurately, if this means driving to all your feeder primary schools, sitting down with the SENCOs and class teachers and collecting the files then do it! We do!
We have also trialled a Primary SENCO coffee/cake evening, where instead of having to organise up to 10-12 different visits, invite the SENCOs to us, provide them with lots of cakes/treats and meet with them individually there. Whilst we are doing this, they can network and share ideas!
We have structured our support in Cheney to have a Head of Year and a non-teacher Assistant Head of Year, there are also four Support Mentors, Physical Disability Lead, 7* Curriculum Lead, a Young Carers Lead and a LAC lead. All of these people must be kept in the loop when talking about/supporting students. Here is where Pupil Profiles are so important.
This year with the changes to the Summer School funding and the DfE not providing the £250 per student, they have also not provided us with information as early as we would have liked as to who is PP/FSM. The information we have had to seek out has involved meticulous checking and cross checking and communication. It has been difficult, especially with 270 students starting school here in September. But, the team here is amazing and work ever so hard!
Other ‘things’ we have done!
- Sent our Teaching Assistants on residentials to get to know key students before they start in September.
- Open up our Science and Design Technology department to make them familiar with the equipment, whilst having fun doing some pretty amazing experiments/tasks!
- Use our Cheney Heroes for sporting events involving the Year 6 students. Also, our work with Humanutopia inviting the students in and getting our heroes to work with them, creating bonds and a peer mentoring system.
- Ensuring any students who have singing/instrument lessons continue when they come here.
- Attended parents evenings at primary schools. We have simply just been there to answer any questions parents/carers/students may have.
- Have an open door policy for visits at any time of the year.
I am sure there are many more things, so watch this space as I keep updating this post!
I am happy to talk/explain more about specific transition for students with significant learning difficulties… get in touch!
Hope this has been helpful?