Ross Davison wanted to improve the pastoral experience of new sixth-form students at Southend High School for Boys in Essex and improve their prospects of securing the best possible A-level grades.
Davison believed that students were underachieving at the start of the year, in part because of their unfamiliarity with their new class. He felt that working on transition could give the students a better start to their A-level courses.
Davison identified 40 students who needed help and began running a series of 30-minute mentoring sessions with them. These looked at how well each student was coping with school life, from their experiences with homework to making new friends.
To supplement each session, Davison issued questionnaires about lessons and homework, and asked whether each student felt comfortable with the level their work was pitched at.
After the sessions were complete, Davison engaged students in semi-structured interviews with the aim of "teasing out" detail from the questionnaires and working out how processes could be improved. He recorded the findings and asked for students' feedback.
Davison found that 90 per cent of the new students felt the induction period at Southend High had prepared them well for life at the school; they also felt they were given a good variety of tasks to complete during lessons. That did mean that 10 per cent needed additional help, however.
On the academic side, 66 per cent of the students reported that they were able to cope with the amount of homework they received, despite often feeling stressed by this aspect of school life.
During the final part of the interview, some students said they felt anxious about fitting into existing friendship groups and thought seating plans could help.
Davison feels his study has given him a glimpse into the minds of new sixth-form students. After he took his findings to his headteacher, tailored seating plans were introduced in all Year 12 classes to help new students make friends.
Newcomers are now also matched up to a teacher they can talk to about issues that are troubling them. And teachers are more sensitive to the needs of new students, avoiding setting too much homework in the first few weeks.
To find out more about the project, email Ross Davison at RDD@shsb.org.uk
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