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Big school castaways learn to bea survivor

IT can be the most basic things pupils fear about the unknowns of going up to secondary, like which door to use or who will be in their class. Will they know anyone?

Pupils in their first weeks and months at the "big school" also spend time building relationships and working out pecking orders after they are thrown together from feeder primaries. But the Delta Plus project in the Baldragon Academy cluster in Dundee, now in its fourth year, is taking the heat out of the transition by working with P6 to S1 pupils throughout the year.

Two hundred pupils from the five primaries saw exactly who they will be meeting come August at a two-day event last week at the Ardler Complex, with sessions on team building, problem-solving, crafts, technology and sport. Day one was single sex, day two mixed. Later school inductions days are more practically based - like finding the right doors and routes round the school.

Jan Tavendale, leader of the Alternatives to Exclusion-funded project, said: "Teachers find it easier to deal with children who have alreadybonded. Parents really value it. Their own anxieties were second-hand anxieties. Now they see their children more relaxed and positive."

Mrs Tavendale believes the best strategy is to embrace the whole year group positively. It is no coincidence the project takes its name from the maths symbols for change positive.

"Most important of all, we need to demonstrate that children have choices and that whether they make good or bad choices, there will be outcomes," she says. "So often we only respond to children's bad behaviour and take their good behaviour for granted."

Project staff work closely with their primary colleagues to promote consistency across schools, and to ensure clear transfer of information. "We leave behind packs, for example, which support teachers in their efforts to help children develop personal skills, such as conflict resolution or how to deal with change," Mrs Tavendale said.

Induction days were once considered a novelty. Now initiatives such as the Delta Plus project could become standard good practice.

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