Joy Sheldon, the assistant headteacher with special responsibility for parents at Kingswood high school on the deprived Bransholme estate in Hull, describes its KS3 transition initiative, designed to deal with the Year 7 and Year 8 dip in performance.
(( Four years ago a school within a school was developed at Kingswood for Year 7 children. We had a separate area, with its own entrance designed to take away the fear factor, allowing incoming children to gradually get to know the school while working in a safe, unthreatening environment.
On their first day they come accompanied by their Year 6 teachers who decide where they should sit to be near their friends. We listen to our primary colleagues because they know the children better than we do.
Previously attendance had been around 80 per cent. It is now 96.1 per cent.
This improvement has to do with talking to primaries about teaching styles and ensuring that children don't flounder. Sometimes secondaries tell children that their transfer is a fresh start, but we build on what primaries have done and we get parents involved even before their children have left the primary sector. By doing this, parents as well as children feel they can talk to Kingswood teachers.
After six weeks in their Year 7 area, children invite parents in to show where and how they work. We also have taster days, inviting Year 5 and 6 children into the Year 7 area to give them an idea of lessons, the school and its staff. Year 6 pupils also join in with our assessing of gifted children.
At the end of Year 7 our students hold their own graduation ceremony, marking not only their move to Year 8 but their move into the school proper. We celebrate what they have accomplished in the presence of their parents: 100 per cent attendance is honoured; the children receive a graduation certificate and a badge; there is a master of ceremonies and an outside guest speaker.
I believe in endings and beginnings - they are very important - and tell children that this ceremony is one to store in their memory. The first time we did it 35 parents came - last time there were 200. At the end of the summer term, when our Year 11 goes off, Year 6 children say goodbye to their primaries a week early and spend that last week with us. Last year we invited the Year 6 children in all our feeder primaries and the majority came.
There is no longer this great dip in performance here because students are monitored so closely. We talk to them constantly about levels and how they can move up.
We want to build on our teaching achievements which have given us the confidence to experiment in class.
Our Sats results were 3 per cent in 19992000 and 28 per cent last year - still low but we used to be at the bottom.