Hey presto! We're ready for big school

29th June 2007 at 01:00
After conjurors have done their work, pupils from three primaries are better able to cope with a move to secondary school. A spellbound Jean McLeish reports

when you become ladies and gentlemen, instead of boys and girls, you know you are on your way to greater things. And today, at last, the boys and girls of three Aberdeen primary schools are being addressed as adults.

"Ladies and Gentlemen," begins magician Ivor Smith as he announces the tasks ahead for the pupils of Ferryhill, Kaimhill and Broomhill primary schools.

Three magicians are taking charge of more than 100 primary pupils at Harlaw Academy this morning to give them a series of enterprise challenges.

The aim is to give the youngsters an idea of the new skills they will need to cope with life in "big school".

Fifth Dimension runs magically enhanced training programmes in schools and for businesses. The team is currently rolling out its I-Zone programme to the new intake at eight Aberdeen secondary schools, as part of Determined to Succeed, the Scottish Executive's strategy for enterprise in education.

Today the three men are working their magic on pupils from three feeder primary schools who are about to start at the city's Harlaw Academy. Teams are a mixture of pupils from all three primary schools, so they will get to know each other before they embark on secondary education.

The course is designed around the theme of "Enterprise in Transition" and involves pupils carrying out several tasks in teams to meet deadlines.

The plan is to encourage team building, time and project management. Throw in a few magic tricks with cards and ropes, and the audience is spellbound.

One of the first tasks is about asking questions: "The best way you can learn is to ask questions and have the courage to say 'Can you help me with this?'" Fifth Dimension magician Jeff Burns tells them. His colleague Bill Burns has set out the ice-breaker questions and has the pupils rushing round finding as many people as they can who have been up the Eiffel Tower or on television or who have won a trophy.

Later the teams compete in a multi-tasking exercise to a deadline. Some work designing a new school website, others solve animal anagrams, and they work together to build a free-standing tower of newspaper.

Soon the room is dotted with teetering paper towers and puzzled faces try to make sense of goonarka, grite and firefag.

Ferryhill Primary teacher Gillian Adams says pupils are well prepared for the move, with induction days and visits from pupils from the secondary school. "They probably worry about small things like playtimes, getting lost, what the subjects will be like and, if they find something difficult, who will help them," she says.

One of the Ferryhill P7 pupils is 12-year-old Hannah Darwin, who says: "I don't know anything about it because I don't have an older brother or sister here. But I just think it will be fun. Going out for lunch will be fun."

Her pal Aimee Culley is equally upbeat. "I'm excited - just about getting a chance to meet lots of new people as well," she says. And another P7, Liam Mitchell, admits: "I'm not looking forward to the homework."

Harlaw Academy's acting depute, Elaine Craig, says mixing the children from different primary schools helps them integrate. She says: "They are realising that people they don't know are just friends they haven't met yet.

"We want them to be very calm and very positive, assuring them of success when they come to Harlaw, so that this will instil a positive ethos that will carry them through the school."

Fifth Dimension runs a variety of different courses in schools. Ivor Smith says: "This is our seventh year in schools and we run five different sessions. They are built in conjunction with the schools, so we can meet the targets they specifically want.

Jeff Burns says: "It's about demonstrating initiative, thinking for themselves and thinking creatively. We're trying to get them to be as independent as they can be at an earlier age and recognising that's what's needed to have enterprising pupils at the end of it."

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