Trip eased the way in secondary transition

Elizabeth Buie

From the east end of Glasgow to the west coast of Ireland, a group of teachers, pupils and parents went on a journey that taught them far more than they ever expected.

The expedition to Donegal was, says Laura McLean, head of St Timothy's Primary, part of a Families in Partnership multi-agency initiative, targeted at pupils identified by support staff and educational psychologists as vulnerable on transition to secondary.

"It was not because of low achievement or attainment that they were identified as vulnerable, but because of low self-esteem and, in some cases, issues in their family background, including addiction problems," Mrs McLean said.

Anne Marie Rafferty, head of the children's services programme, felt priority had to be placed on giving the pupils more time with their parents, which children had requested in the council's children's charter.

School and children's services staff spent time with the parents, explaining why they felt their children were vulnerable, and called a meeting for the 12 children identified and their families. Two families rejected the idea, leaving 10.

"We took them to places in Glasgow they had never been to, like the Glasgow Science Centre," said Mrs McLean. "They didn't understand how much was available. The kids had a great time and their parents enjoyed it too."

Then they set their sights further afield to an outdoor centre at Garten, in Donegal, on the west coast of Ireland. "We wanted the parents to know the value of giving their children time, and we hoped the parents would see a different reaction to our type of behaviour management," she said.

The school found childcare support for their other children while they were away and focused on involving fathers and male carers. Four fathers took part. Activities ranged from hill climbing to surfing and a climbing wall.

Funding of Pounds 6,000 for 10 parents, 10 pupils and four staff to go to Donegal came from the local community health child protection team partnership in Glasgow.

The project began last year when most of the pupils were in P6, so that staff would have time to work on their vulnerabilities before the transition to secondary.

"The immediate benefits have been an improvement in attendance and in the relationship and communication with families," said Mrs McLean.

"One of the biggest features was that the parents felt they could contact the school now. They felt we were friendly as a staff. They had seen me in my denims getting half-drowned - it was no longer a world they were excluded from."

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Elizabeth Buie

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