The move from primary into secondary is a big step but it doesn’t have to be an unnecessarily daunting one. Russell Smart, Assistant Headteacher, Kings’ School Al Barsha, takes us by the hand to explain more
25 June 2018| Last updated on 1 July 2018
When children come into Year 4 at Kings’ School Al Barsha they’ve already built up a ‘tool kit’ of independent strategies and this starts from Foundation Stage (FS1), whether it’s through collaboration, critical thinking or problem solving, etc.
In Years 4-6, there’s a higher expectation from teachers, and children are given the opportunity to promote themselves and that independence. And this runs right through from FS1 through Year 6 and up to Year 12, with the same shared learning behaviours and expectations - right down to manners and politeness.
Because this is embedded early on, this frees us up to take on more things such as creativity, problem solving and the mastery approach; and we can go much deeper with their learning because they’ve already built up that resilience and know it’s OK to make mistakes.
Leadership roles also have a part to play, both for Years 5 and 6, but the latter specifically. Each class will have different representation for different roles.
For example, we have a Royal (school) Council, which runs from Year 2 up, and as we go into Key Stage 2 we have other opportunities such as our Eco Council (Year 2) through to head boy and girl in Year 6.
There are also house captains, happiness ambassadors and play leaders; so there are lots of opportunities for children to not only lead their learning but also wider school opportunities and we encourage everyone to ‘have a go’.
In Year 6, we ask students to produce a presentation on what would make them a good leader.
Some choose to present to us as an argument as to why they should have a leadership role, while others just present to their peers. Many children use known inspirational leaders in their presentations and refer to the skills and attributes that will make them a good leader at Kings’.
Over the course of the year we see children who were initially extremely shy, completely transformed: welcoming people to a school production or standing behind a lectern delivering a workshop to parents.
Narrowing the Gap
A huge benefit in being based at Kings’ School Al Barsha is that children obviously have the opportunity to journey through the school from age three to 18.
Those that move up, still get to see friends from other years during breaks, for example, and so there’s a natural continuity. What adds to this is that teachers from secondary come in to team or solo teach at primary level, and vice versa. So, there’s already that bridge and any potential fear of ‘strange faces’ is certainly reduced.
We also make it a point to share as much information as possible with our secondary colleagues, and we are just a call or visit away if they need more information or to see our systems in action.
We have a primary and secondary leadership team, but we also have a campus leadership team that comes together on a regular basis. With my secondary counterpart, we have a daily dialogue about what we are planning to do, whether it’s timetable or certain assessments, for example.
United We Stand
Another aspect is the various activities that take place across the school year, which we start in Year 5 so as to avoid focusing solely on it being a Year 6 transition or Step Up Day scenario. We try start with this in Year 5 because Dubai being the place it is, parents are already looking around for other school opportunities, and it’s about showing them that in staying with Kings’, the transition is potentially much smoother.
For example, we recently held a STEAM day led by the Science and Design Technology team, and children from Kings’ School Dubai were also invited to join to see our facilities.
This kind of event, along with national days or other such occasions, are very much ‘whole school’ based.
We’ve had pop-up events at the front of the school during STEM week and British Science Week, with activities led by different year groups, such as a live experiment where a Year 8 works alongside a Year 4 or where our secondary STEM ambassadors in Year 12 deliver lessons to small Year 6 groups (one recent session saw them learning about the heart and circulation and actually dissecting a heart!).
Experiences like these really communicate the ‘buzz’ of secondary level science and, as such, give our children a taste of what’s just around the corner for them as they prepare to move up.
Students that we feel may need a bit of an extra push or support also benefit from a buddy system, where we team a Year 6 up with a Year 7 or 8 so that when it comes to finding their way around with a new timetable and different classrooms, which can be a little bit daunting to start with, they have someone to rely on.
Best of Three
What are the top three concerns for children preparing for Year 7?
- The teachers are much stricter
- The work is much harder
- I don’t want to be split up from my friends
No matter where I’ve worked or in what context, they all perceive secondary teachers to be stricter than primary. It’s helped us a lot to have Kings’ secondary teachers teach lessons at primary level.
The way we approach it is to ask them whether the work they are doing is harder in Year 6 than in Year 4 than Year 2? Obviously, they then understand that there’s a natural progression in terms of the learning challenge. Our question to them is ‘how are you going to tackle this challenge?’
While this is more commonplace in the UK, for example, where children move schools or leave the area, here there is still a slight apprehension about not being with their friends next year. Our Year 7 head and the Year 6 teachers work together to keep friendship groups where possible, while doing what’s right for the children and their learning journey.
Kings' School Al Barsha