On yer bikes

15th December 2006 at 00:00
Secondary staff go back to primary schools to ease the transition for primary pupils

HEADTEACHER ANDREW Russell called it a step out of the comfort zone. Fifty teachers from "big school" were sent to local primaries for an insight into the different school cultures.

Experience shows the transition to secondary can be traumatic for 11-and 12-year-olds and many fail to continue attaining the high marks and scores they earned at junior school.

That is why teachers from Wyvern Community School in Weston-super-Mare found themselves sitting cross-legged last week, listening to a lesson surrounded by seven-year-old pupils.

Mr Russell said: "We're always looking for ways to make the transfer from Year 6 to 7 as smooth as possible. We have a lot to discover about the way children in Years 5 and 6 learn, the activities they do, the language of learning they use and the quality and quantity of work they produce in a day."

During the day, staff interacted with the youngsters, watched how they learned and observed the teachers' techniques.

Muriel Warden, assistant headteacher at Wyvern, who spent the day at nearby Ashcombe primary with four colleagues, said: "We want to build on the good work that goes on in primary schools and look at new initiatives to help make the transition period a lot smoother.

"We assumed we knew what primary schools are doing but they have a very different ethos and culture to secondary schools. Their structure is totally different so it's important for us to understand that." She said secondary schools often start from scratch with new pupils. "But it is a huge disservice to the staff here as the children come to us with such good resources and we want to make sure we're using them," she added.

All teachers were given a booklet to guide their thoughts and help them reflect on their own learning. The day ended with a discussion of their experiences and what they had learned.

Nicky Munro, an English teacher at Wyvern, said it had been interesting seeing how well routines were embedded in the school.

"One thing I picked up was not to expect so much from the children when they first arrive at secondary school," he said. "They forget a lot in the six weeks they're off during the summer and we take it for granted they know everything they should. There needs to be a better transition period."

A WELCOME START IN YEAR 7

Try to reduce the number of times a pupil has to move to a different classroom. Time is wasted and they find it disruptive to learning.

Allow pupils time to finish work after a lesson ends.

Do not expect too much of pupils in the first couple of months after the six-week summer break. They forget a lot, so help them get backup to speed.

Realise the importance of classroom routines.

Remember that pupils are used to being taught by someone who knows them and their ability levels.

Use positive language: constant praise can boost self-confidence.

Try to create a more calm and quiet atmosphere.

Use whiteboards and projectors more, as well as graphics and moving images.

Incorporate thinking time into lessons: give pupils the chance mentally to explore an issue or incident.

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