Enriching projects ease transition experience
In a show of pupil power, first-year pupils at St Columba's High, in Dunfermline, have signed a petition for their S1 enrichment programme to be repeated in S2.
The programme began at the end of last session as pupils prepared to move up to high school. St Columba's asked the P7s at its cluster primaries to choose one of three subject areas - expressive arts, health and well-being or technology - they would like to pursue in the first year.
"We got some money from the local authority to set up a pilot," says Sandy McIntosh, acting depute head. "The aim was to give the pupils an opportunity to do a long project which would be enriching in terms of A Curriculum for Excellence, as well as supporting other areas, such as English and personal and social education."
The numbers choosing each topic were evenly matched, so no one was forced into an area they didn't choose. Many of the boys picked health and well-being, which includes sport, and technology, while most of the girls opted for expressive arts. Of the 52 doing expressive arts, just seven are boys.
The handful of pupils grabbing a quick, last-minute rehearsal before their Disney songs and dance extravaganza performance for parents and pupils, are brimming with enthusiasm, including the boys.
"It has been a good experience," says Mark Bower, who is doing the light and sound for the show. "It has helped my confidence and I've since joined the drama club at school. I've also learnt new skills with the light and sound, so I've got to do this as well as singing."
Caitlin Mair has used the experience and confidence she has acquired at auditions for professional shows. She is among six finalists auditioning for a new touring production of Mary Poppins by the National Theatre in London and has recently spent a week preparing with the cast.
She has loved the expressive arts project. "We got to meet lots of other pupils we might never have met because we are not in the same classes," she says. "And we have mixed really well."
"It should be something all schools do," adds Mollie Ager.
Besides the school performance, the group will take this show to three primaries. This is their second show; at Christmas they put on a mini-musical with singing and dancing. Part of the preparation involved the children auditioning each other to decide who should have the solos and main parts.
"The aim is to encourage collaborative working in all the areas and to boost confidence," says Margaret Kelly, principal teacher of music.
The shows have also given the project a context. "We felt it was crucial that there was an end result," says Mr McIntosh.
"The technology pupils have been designing their own gaming character, a website or a robot. We are going to hold a tournament for all the robots.
"In health and well-being, the pupils have been working towards the young sports leader qualification, led by our area sports co-ordinator, James Fenna."
Timetabling the programme was relatively easy. An afternoon a week was allocated to each group, and while one was doing its project, the other two had religious education or enterprise classes.
The funding for the pilot will run out shortly and Mr McIntosh's secondment as acting depute will end, but the school intends to continue the programme for future S1s, and the local authority has plans to extend it, or at least elements of it, to other Fife schools.
Mr McIntosh is collecting feedback on the programme. "I'm looking at engagement of pupils, whether they found it fun, and the quality of the relationship with their teachers," he says. "So far, the feedback has been very positive and the pupils have made it clear they want it to continue."