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No more tears especially from mum

The nursery to P1 transition can be traumatic for some pupils, but not so at Scotstoun Primary, writes Elizabeth Buie

`MORVEN MCCLYMONT couldn't wait to start school this week mainly because she has a new best friend in her buddy Anna Millar.

They first met when Anna, then in P6, visited Morven in her nursery a private nursery, not an associated local authority one earlier in the year. Morven already knows a lot about her new school, Scotstoun Primary in Glasgow's West End, because Anna sent her a welcome booklet telling her all about herself and what they will do together on her first day.

The school's nursery-P1 transition scheme has been running for six years, constantly refined by depute head Alison Coats, who has responsibility for the early stages.

Scotstoun does not have an associated nursery, but takes in P1 entrants from a large number of local authority and private nurseries across the city. While most primaries arrange events with associated nurseries, it is rare for staff to visit private nurseries to meet entrants.

Mrs Coats thought such a move would not only be more inclusive, but would ease the transition process for all. Part of the incentive was the HMIE report Ensuring Effective Transition (2006), which highlighted the need for establishments to work in partnership and review their current procedures.

Moira McClymont, Morven's mother, uses a mixture of council and private nursery provision, but it was in the private nursery that Morven first met Anna.

The process starts in January, when parents and new entrants are introduced to the buddy system when they enrol. At enrolment, parents are asked for details of their child's nursery placement and the school invites all the nurseries to get involved.

Mrs Coats tells the P6 pupils about their role as buddies and assigns one to every new entrant. A photograph is taken of each buddy and sent inside a welcoming pack to the home, addressed to the child.

In his one, Robbie Montgomery wrote: "When you come to school I will be there to meet you. I will take you to your teacher. Your teacher will let you play for a while. Then he or her (sic) will read you a story about what you have to bring to school. After that you might draw a picture or sing a song, or maybe you'll make something. Soon it will be 11 o'clock and your parents will come and collect you."

The paired children have a number of meetings throughout the second and third terms: the first is in the nursery, when the children play together and Mrs Coats chats to the key worker; then, in May, new entrants visit the school with their parents for a morning, being met by their buddy, who takes them into the class where they will be in August with their class teacher.

On their first day in August, the new P1s are met by their buddies and taken to their classrooms. The P1s play with their buddies every playtime until the September long weekend; thereafter, every Friday.

Apart from the obvious benefits of reducing children's and parents' anxieties about starting school, and giving older pupils a sense of responsibility, the scheme allows the P1 teacher to get a better insight into the children and the class before August. The contact with the nurseries provides teachers with more information sometimes a chat with the key nursery worker is more valuable than a transition report.

"Last year, the only tears were from the mums not the children," said Mrs Coats. "The P1 children become attached to their buddies quickly. Many have their buddy's picture pinned up at home and they look out for them in the street. We try to pair them locally."

As part of a constant refinement, Mrs Coats hopes to create digital movies about the school and a photo album for buddies.

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