At this primary, the new year has just begun

16th July 2010 at 01:00
School bids to beat 'summer dip' by introducing pupils to their September classes early

In one small corner of the west Midlands it is already September.

Last week, pupils at Shireland Hall Primary in Smethwick, Sandwell, enjoyed the traditional last-day-of-term festivities and bade a fond farewell to their class teachers. Now, they are in their new classrooms, settling into their new seats and sharpening up their maths skills.

"I think of myself as a Year 6," said Zoheb Mobeen, ten, who has been in Year 5 this year. "We had a party on Friday then hugged all our teachers and said bye. On Monday, the school was shut for a training day and on Tuesday we came and started in our new class."

The project was introduced for the first time this year, partly as a way of combating the "summer dip", when pupils' academic progress falls back during the six-week summer holiday, and partly to ease start-of-term stress for teachers.

Executive head Travis Latham said: "There can be apprehension from teachers about coming back in September. This way they get to know now the children they're teaching from September.

"The teacher and pupils have three weeks to learn routines, set expectations and suss each other out. It means that when September comes we can get started on the first day rather than two or three weeks in."

The school hopes the project will also help narrow the gap between different groups of pupils, as research has found that children from lower income families fall further behind than others during the holidays.

At 400-pupil Shireland Hall, each year group apart from the nursery has moved up. While Year 5 takes over their classroom, Year 6 pupils are spending their final weeks at the school building a website about Smethwick, visiting secondaries, or helping out in the nursery.

The most difficult thing about the project, Mr Latham said, was moving forward the organisation needed for a new school year. Teachers were given time during a training day to prepare their classrooms for their new groups.

Mr Latham said: "Getting classrooms ready would usually be done at a more leisurely pace over the summer holidays. It is a huge piece of work to get resources ready for the new term."

Jaspreet Dhariwal, ten, said: "After the summer you forget what happened the previous year. You have to go to a new teacher, and learn where to go, where the pencils go, where to sit. But this year it will be the same for me because I was in Year 6 this year."

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