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Secondary

Secondary school transitions – Why we give our students a week

The experience of starting Y7 can be confusing and intimidating – which is why one school resolved to give its new cohorts as much support as possible…

Daniel Goater
by Daniel Goater
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Secondary

Each year for the past decade, we at Bedminster Down School, South Bristol, have run week-long programmes of transition activities.

We serve 22 primary schools and have a pupil admission number (PAN) of 216 students in each year group. The student and parent feedback we’ve received strongly supports our choice to opt for a week of such activities, rather than the single day organised by most other secondary schools in the area, and I’d argue the benefits definitely outweigh the costs.

The transition team comprises three members of staff, including the school’s assistant principal, SENCo and a pastoral worker, who will commence planning together in term 3. The work completed prior to transition week includes information gathering and school visits during term 5, where larger numbers of students join us.

My colleagues will speak with the SENCo and Y6 teachers, while I meet the students and answer any questions they may have. We then plan out transition week itself, which this year commenced on Monday 4th July. We always aim to hold it towards the end of term 6, to coincide with Y10 being on work experience and our Y11s having left.

Throughout the week, the Y6s will follow a timetable that closely resembles the one they’ll have when they start with us in September – the main exceptions being problem solving and team building events that all students take part in on the Thursday morning. There’s also a welcome assembly they’ll attend upon arrival at the start of the week, plus a rewards assembly at the end of the week on Friday afternoon.

The week is staffed by our own teachers – typically those that have surplus year Y10/Y 11 teaching time. What we’ve learned over the course of holding our transition weeks is that a growing number of Y6 students are demonstrating heightened anxiety and nervousness at the prospect of joining secondary school.

An overwhelming majority of these students say afterwards that temporarily joining the school for a whole uninterrupted week helped remove their anxieties around starting and gave them a surge of confidence, having prepared them for what things are really going to be like in September.

Needless to say, planning in a whole week of transition activities rather than setting aside a dedicated day entails considerably more work – but we’ve found it’s definitely worth it.

Daniel Goater is assistant headteacher and safeguarding lead at Bedminster Down School; for more details, visit bedminsterdown.org.uk

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