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Secondary school unveils new strategy to smooth transition for primary learners post-pandemic

SMOOTHING the transition from primary to secondary school is more vital than ever given the pressures faced by learners post-pandemic.

Which is why Ysgol Eirias in Colwyn Bay unveiled a new strategy in partnership with local Headteachers to ensure the wellbeing of young pupils is paramount as they make the pivotal switch from Year 6 to Year 7.

Jess Ramsden is Transition Coordinator at Eirias – named among the Top 10 Sunday Times ‘Parent Power’ high-performing schools in Wales – and has led on developments in partnership with teachers and staff in their local ‘cluster’.

Inspired by Bridges’ Transition Model, which helps organisations and individuals understand and more effectively manage and work through the personal and human side of change, they have introduced a series of programmes and initiatives designed to put the minds of parents and pupils at rest.

“We have been working alongside primary schools and refining the process, while Headteachers from the schools and our Deputy Headteacher and Headteacher have met regularly to evaluate things and build on what is already a proactive relationship,” said Jess.

“The move from Year 6 to Year 7 is now much more of a journey, not just for the children but for their families as well.”

She added: “More than 700 people attended our open evening last autumn and throughout the year we have been engaging with them via a wide range of activities and events.

“We held Tea and Toast mornings, where Year 6 pupils and their parents or carers were able to observe Year 7 lessons, and during their visit they took part in a sign language class and food tasting in the canteen, which gave them a flavour of what a warm and welcoming environment we have here.

“There have also been feeder and non-feeder school sessions giving prospective learners the chance to experience lessons in subjects including Science, Technology and Drama, and our teachers have gone out to schools, attending events, and delivering classes and workshops.

“We also put together a Christmas song written by Year 6 students from the cluster schools, have had training days, held KiVa anti-bullying workshops, and launched the ‘Stepping Up’ programme for children with additional learning needs and those in need of extra support.

“There is so much we are doing, and in July we will hold our induction week ahead of plans to do more with Year 5 pupils as well; at Ysgol Eirias we are taking a long-term, focused look at the overall health and wellbeing of our learners, and the transition process is a big, big part of that.”

Among those to support the programme is James Wilkinson, Headteacher at St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School, Colwyn Bay, who believes transition has always been a “strength” in the cluster.

“Strong, trusting relationships between key staff in our schools has ensured that children are given the best possible start in Year 7, with individual needs carefully considered,” he said.

“This process and the crucial conversations typically begin in Year 5 and often continue as they move through Year 7 and upwards.”

Points echoed by Nicola Williams, Acting Deputy Headteacher at Ysgol Pen y Bryn in Colwyn Bay, who said: “The children have had some very positive and worthwhile experiences this year such as drama and KiVA workshops with Eirias pupils, taking part in a competition and being invited to the school to complete activities.

“It has really ensured the children have begun to understand they are part of a cluster family with Eirias and the support they are offered will not change just because they are moving schools.

“Transition is so much more than the induction days offered at the end of the summer term and the activities the children have had the opportunity to take part in reflect this.”

Hayley Blackwell, Assistant Headteacher at Ysgol Eirias, added: “The feedback we have had from parents and the primary schools is heartening, so we will continue to reflect and build on the programmes we have put in place as part of our overall health and wellbeing strategy.”