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Students are eased into secondary school life 29 July 2011

STARTING secondary school can be a daunting prospect for students – but nearly 1,000 11-year-olds who will make the switch from primary school this September have had the way smoothed for them.

In recent months, Year 6 pupils have enjoyed visits to their new schools, have had talks from senior secondary staff and have even been invited to join in with secondary sporting, social and cultural activities, where they have had opportunities to make new friends. Transition day at QEII

Jan Gimbert, School Improvement Adviser for 11-19 Education with the Department of Education and Children, has responsibility to oversee the Department’s policies and procedures with regards to transition between primary and secondary school.

Jan said:

‘The move to secondary school is a big step for children. They go from being the oldest in a school where they know everyone, to a completely new building with a different teacher for each subject, many more pupils and a timetable that they have to follow through what seems to them a maze of corridors. It’s not a surprise that many of them are apprehensive before they make the move.
‘Some of the concerns they have are fuelled more by TV programmes rather than reality. Our primary and secondary schools spend a lot of time working collaboratively in the area of transition to reduce children’s anxieties and make the move from primary to secondary school go as smoothly as possible.’

Secondary schools take great care when placing children into tutor groups, asking pupils to complete a friendship form so they have at least one familiar face in class when they start in September.

Work on transition starts relatively early in Year 6, the last year of primary school, Jan said.

‘Secondary schools hold open evenings, where their work is showcased, and induction days, where children spend a full day following a timetable. Through these activities, children become more familiar with their new learning environment and meet some of their new teachers.’
Secondary staff also visit Year 6 children in their own classrooms, taking with them past pupils to give a first-hand account of what Year 7 in secondary school is like.
‘Year 6 are able to ask all the questions they need about their new school while still comfortable in their primary classroom,’ Jan said. ‘Secondary staff also really value these visits as it is an opportunity for them to start to get to know the pupils they will see day in, day out for the next five years.’

Secondaries also host social activities such as concerts and sporting events in the summer term to encourage children from their partner primary schools to start to get to know one another.

Cameron Byrne steps up to 900-pupil Castle Rushen High School in September from Scoill Phurt le Moirrey, where there are only 12 in his year.

His mum Angela described the transition work as ‘invaluable’.

‘Cameron has spent a full day at Castle Rushen, attending classes, including PE, has been invited to a Year 6 disco at the school, has attended an open evening and has been working on transition work in class with teachers from his new school. He has gone from being wary about the move to being really excited,’ Angela said. ‘As a parent I’m delighted.’

When asked recently, Year 7 pupils were very positive about their initial experiences of their new school, reporting that help was always at hand in the first few weeks from tutors, teachers, buddies and sixth formers, Jan said.

‘Most children settle down well to life in their new school. They recognise that going to secondary school is part of the rite of passage towards their teenage years and eventually adulthood.’

Eddie Teare MHK, Minister for Education and Children, commented:

‘There are always going to be some butterflies in the stomach when moving to a new and bigger school but the work done by the DEC and schools to ensure a smooth transition benefits pupils, parents and teachers alike.’

Photo: Children from western primaries make music during a day at their new secondary school, Queen Elizabeth II High

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