Gareth D Morewood

Curriculum support transition event

Many schools have well established transition events for Year 6 pupils in preparation for their start in the coming September. After individual meetings at the primary schools (often Year 5 annual reviews), bespoke tours and initial transition events, whole-school induction activities – sports, science etc … we get to this time in the summer term when everything becomes more of a reality for the young people and their parents/carers.

Purpose and aims

We always host an additional curriculum support transition morning for young people and their parents/carers before the whole-school day and evening. This allows for a more personalised experience for parents/carers and young people prior to the Year 7 intake all being in school for the whole-school induction day and evening. We set out to ensure that everyone:

  • knows about Priestnall School’s unique, inclusive approach to supporting young people
  • knows they are joining an ‘outstanding’ school and what this means
  • hears from some current and previous students and considers what the future holds…

It is always very powerful hearing current students talk about their experiences and share successes, whilst being able to dispel some of the myths that perpetuate around Year 6s at this anxious time.

My introduction

I always start the day (after parents/carers have a brew and young people a juice, of course!) by welcoming everyone to the start of an exciting time. I deliver a short presentation that outlines our view of what an ‘inclusive school’ means to us all.

  • Inclusive education is a human right.
  • Inclusive education makes good educational sense.
  • Inclusive education makes good social sense.
  • Providing for the 21st century learner.

I also explain about the range of support and provision we have ‘on hand’ as part of this inclusive provision, for example:

  • specialist teaching staff
  • Teaching Assistants
  • on-site counsellor and therapist
  • SALT and OT Groups
  • Nurture Group
  • speech and language therapist
  • trainee educational psychologists
  • drama-therapist
  • partnerships with other providers
  • to name but a few…

Proactive provision

My emphasis here is that we don’t need to ‘fill out a form’ or ‘wait six months for an appointment’ – we aim to be able to deliver as part of our school provision, as a proactive model, not a reactive one. I also stress to parents/carers that the SEND reforms and changes from September 2014 are nothing to fear for young people at Priestnall, we are well placed to manage transition onto new arrangements and will be holding specific events in September to clarify misconceptions and support understanding.

Who’s who?

It is also really important for everyone to meet and know who key staff are, we provide a document with pictures, names and contact details for all key staff so parents/carers can take it away with them and know who and how to contact us as and when required.

Quotes to support my views

I always like to try and offer different perspectives. As I often say, ‘Don’t just take my word for it!’. The first part of this is through previous inspection reports; quotes from HMI and Ofsted.

  • ‘The nurture group, with its personalised approach to the needs of students in Years 7 and 8 whose circumstances make them vulnerable, is very effective in raising their confidence and integrating them into mainstream lessons.’
  • ‘The school’s commitment to inclusion is evident in the outstanding care, guidance and support carefully tailored to students’ individual needs.’
  • ‘Strong inter-agency partnerships extend the scope of help available and enable the school to develop its own in-house expertise, for example in supporting students on the autistic spectrum.’
  • ‘The school’s close links with families increases the benefits of the support for students with special educational needs and/or disabilities.’
  • ‘A comment from one parent of such a student captures the views of a number who wrote to praise the school for providing, the best of care in a nurturing environment.’

Whatever we think of inspections and Ofsted, we work in an accountable world, and this is a key measure parents/carers use when benchmarking schools and provision. I also find it useful to remind everyone, including my key staff about the reasons young people do so well with us.

Message from the headteacher

Then the head says a few welcoming words, and confirms our commitment to a truly whole-school approach to supporting every young person whatever starting point or background. This is really important; to demonstrate a truly committed approach right from the top is a powerful statement.

Hearing from the current students

We then hear from current students, many of whom were sitting in the audience one year ago. Some prepare a script, some just talk, but all stand and ‘tell it how it is’ in front of parents/carers and younger peers – this is a hugely powerful part of the morning, and always well received.

Practical activities and discussions

risk resilience

After a short break the young people, Year 6 and current students, engage with practical activities whilst parents/carers can have another brew and chat informally with key staff – this is really useful as it allows for follow up visits/discussions and also more detailed information sharing at this stage. We also ensure we have precise details regarding parents/carers names and contact details – it is important to start positive communication on a strong footing.

Finishing the event

We then bring everyone back together to finish off and thank everyone for the morning – I stress that our aim is to ensure their child comes to school happy and goes home happy, in the first instance. There are many risks associated with the transition to secondary school, often amplified by specific additional need. Our aim is to add resilience and support a balanced approach to learning and personalised development.  With the whole-school event in two weeks time we have the opportunity to ensure individual questions and additional visits are catered for and that parents/carers feel they are in the best possible position with regard to transition. More to follow on our new intake as the new academic year develops...

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