Party air has movers on song

A Eurovision-style school event has helped to smooth the transition from primary to secondary, finds Jean McLeish

Jean McLeish

It doesn't take long to get the party started at Inverurie Academy - with a playlist from the Eurovision Song Contest going back almost 50 years. Nearly 200 primary pupils are packed into the hall to watch some of the catchiest Eurovision entries and pick a favourite.

The school's former head, Douglas Milne, took up the Terry Wogan-type role to announce the songs, which the P7s watch on a big screen on YouTube. The pupils have not yet reached the age of cynicism and cheer as soon as the first song gets under way. Some of the teachers would have been their age when these songs were hits, but the primary pupils don't care - they're in the mood for dancing.

This is Invereuro Day, which is focusing on modern languages as part of the school's transition programme. All today's activities have a European theme - French cookery, a Euro Quiz, computer research, even keep fit in French.

"What you are seeing are the fruits of a really genuine collaborative effort between primaries and secondary, to make this as smooth a transition as possible for the pupils," says Eileen Arrol, faculty head of modern languages at Inverurie Academy.

She has been visiting the primaries with colleagues Sandra Philip and Mark McPherson to teach modern languages there for some time. Strong relationships fostered with primary colleagues gave them the idea for today's programme.

A Euro Quiz was run by Amanda Davidson (now Whitfield), who was head at Chapel of Garioch Primary, while Ruth Hassan, head at Oyne Primary, worked with Ms Arrol on a Ready Steady Cook-style event. Mrs Philip and Mr McPherson are running the Eurovision and computer sessions, and Jill Yule, a PE teacher now in support for learning, ran the keep fit.

Inverurie Academy has run transition programmes focusing on particular curricular areas for the past few years - the first year creative arts, then science and technology and now modern languages.

On the screen, we're back in 1975 and it's a classic Eurovision winner from the Netherlands: Ding-a-Dong.

"It's been good," whispers Lewis Dukelow (P7) from Strathburn Primary.

He's been having a good time all week and is clapping along with friends he's made from the other primaries in his group.

"It is a bit scary when you first start, but now you're getting used to your buddies and it's actually not that bad," he smiles. "Buddies show you around and they're really nice. It's weird because we were buddies for the P1s and now we are having buddies."

Sixth-years like Lewis's buddy Neil Stannett have volunteered for this role. Neil remembers his buddy when he started here. "Since I was in first year, I have always wanted to be a buddy, because it's just nice to be able to help them feel like they are settling in," says Neil.

The children have also had an event on the theme of respect based on physical activity and citizenship, run in partnership with Grampian Police and the active schools coordinator. For the next two days, pupils work on their class timetables, meeting the teachers and classmates they'll work with in S1.

With CfE and independent learning in focus, children have been on computers today - researching European foods using Wikipedia, finding out more about their favourite sports and sporting stars in Europe and looking up words in different languages on an online dictionary to identify similarities.

"Some children are confident and ready to move on. There are a few children that days like this are extra good for," says Carol May, a teacher at Insch Primary, one of nine feeder primaries. "It gives them extra time to get to know where they're going and to get to know the people they are going to be with in their new school."


An extended transition scheme has been run at Inverurie Academy for children who will need additional support when they come here.

Special care has been taken to ensure vulnerable children feel welcome, and primaries selected 13 children they felt would benefit from extended transition.

Support for learning teacher Jill Yule ran this extended transition group with colleagues Eileen Wilson and Norma Reid.

"It gives them someone they can relate to when they come to school," says Mrs Reid.

In the run-up to their move to the big school, this group of children made a film, Getting to Know Inverurie Academy. They were trained by the Aberdeenshire Media Unit during the six-week project and held a film premiere for parents and staff.

Mrs Yule says: "They went round and interviewed some staff with questions they wanted to know about the school for when they come into first year."

Former head Douglas Milne says there is a risk that problems will arise if children don't make the adjustment to secondary school effectively.

"One is that youngsters tread water in S1 and S2, and the whole point about transition is to try and build on prior learning.

"The second risk is that they don't get over that hump between primary and secondary. That's really part of the reason for involving them from the beginning and using some of our support staff to support and plan for transition quite specifically."

For now, though, Eurovision mania rules and Mr Milne's jokes prompt good- humoured groans. The children's winner is France's 2010 entry Allez Ola Ole.

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Jean McLeish

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