In this latest update from the North Yorkshire Coast Opportunity Area, Gavin Hayman (NYCOA Project Manager) gives an insight into a new initiative that is supporting children to make the transition to high school this summer.

Big School

The move from primary to secondary school is, quite understandably, a big step for any child; it is a significant milestone in their educational and social life. Although daunting, most children will cope with the transition to high school fairly well and will adjust to their new surroundings and ways of working after a few weeks.

However, for some children – including those who are particularly anxious, have special educational needs or may be vulnerable in some other way – it can take a couple of terms to get to grips with life and learning in a new environment.

If there has been little preparation for the huge changes that occur between primary and secondary school, a child can flounder. This can lead to difficulties accessing the curriculum and making friends and can result in poor social and emotional mental health and lower educational attainment. Therefore, the last phase of primary school and the first few months of secondary school are crucial in developing the social skills, learning habits and resilience required to make the best start possible.

Building Resilience

Research has shown that a child is able to learn best when they have strong self-esteem, feel a sense of belonging and can meet new challenges with resilience.

In order to secure the most favourable conditions for young people on the coast, the Opportunity Area has partnered with Sidewalk – a local charity specialising in working with marginalized and at-risk young people on the streets – to provide selected primary schools with weekly 1:1 mentoring sessions for vulnerable Year 6 pupils.

In each session, the mentor listens to the young person to find out what is happening in their life, how they would like things to look in the future and how this could be achieved. In the sessions, mentors address concerns that crop up and suggest strategies that could help. However, as well as picking up on current worries, mentors also deliver a bespoke curriculum to support the young person to make a great start at high school. Sessions include advice about how to address worrying feelings and to cope with stress, how to manage friendships, resolve conflicts and set goals and more mundane, practical guidance, such as how to use a planner and how to organise their school bag.

A wide range of resources and approaches are employed, with sessions adapted to the unique needs, experiences and priorities of the individual young person.

Many primary schools already take a robust approach to transition. However, what makes the OA Transition Project different – aside from the bespoke 1:1 mentoring sessions and transition curriculum – is that the support for each young person continues well into their first term at secondary school. If a problem or crisis arises, the young person will be able to rely on someone with whom they have already built trust during the primary school sessions.

Impact

Mentoring sessions have been running in some schools for a couple of months now and the initial reports are very positive, with almost 100% engagement and attendance. The young people have been keen to engage with the mentors – to have someone independent to talk with about their problems – and are enjoying the high school survival tips and tactics sessions. School leaders have also welcomed the initiative and are already looking at their Year 5 cohorts with a view to identifying vulnerable pupils that would benefit from a second year of this cost-effective and beneficial project.

At a Glance

Project: Y6/Y7 Transition Project

Aims: To facilitate and sustain successful transitions for vulnerable pupils in Year 6 moving to high school

Content: Tailored 1:1 weekly mentoring sessions, delivered in primary and secondary schools across the area

Cost: Around £300 per pupil for 1:1 mentoring sessions from March to November

Impact: Reduced exclusions, improved inclusion, better SEMH and attendance and attainment gains

For more information, contact Gavin Hayman (NYCOA Project Manager) gavinhayman@northyorks.gov.uk

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