One of the best bits of working across primary and secondary schools is the way we get to keep our relationships with children and young people going across their transition from Year 6 to Year 7. As far back as we remember, we’ve been running a fun, meaningful and reassuring transition project with primary school leavers and this year it has been great to be back doing this properly. It’s got us very excited to see all these wonderful hundreds of young people coming to our secondary school Safe Spaces for the first time in a few weeks!
From all our years of experience and the thousands of young people we’ve helped on this big step in life, we know everyone feels slightly differently about the transition to secondary school. There’s a lot of excitement, but also a lot of worry. Thankfully these days, secondary schools run some great experience days for primary school children to come and check out what they have to look forward to. I always notice how great a difference there is in their rising excitement levels and their worries easing after these great days. We find it really helpful to reflect this back to the students to show how willing we are to journey with them.
A big theme of what we share in an ‘It’s Your Move’ session is helping students process the worries they might have. Experience shows the top five worries are:
5. Detentions – often the pupils worried about detentions are the ones who will naturally avoid them, but (without sounding too much like a bore!) it’s important to remind pupils that school discipline is there to create a culture in which they can thrive both educationally and socially.
4. Getting more homework – there is usually a pretty obvious increase in the work students are expected to do outside of class and students do worry about the effect this will have.
3. Not knowing anyone – leaving primary school friends behind can be a big worry, as well as not knowing whether you will make new friends as easily. There’s lots of underlying worries here too around identity and fitting in.
2. Getting lost – we have a couple of relatively large primary schools in Southport, but even they are outsized by our secondary schools. It’s important to reassure students that there’s help at hand from understanding staff and older students.
1.Bullying – this is a big one and so important we address it. Thankfully we get to run anti-bullying workshops every year in primary schools, so by year 6 they’ve heard us talk about it quite a few times. It’s important to remind them of the advice we’ve always given, which doesn’t lose it’s effectiveness in secondary school – it’s potentially even more crucial.
We always have a great whole class discussion around worries, which is a great point to share about the many church youth leaders (both paid & voluntary) who we know around the town and give an insight into the work they do with young people in churches and the message they bring – particularly giving chance to share some paraphrased biblical wisdom:
“Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you.”Deut. 31:6 (The Message)
A great thing about being so active in the secondary schools is that over the last few months we have used some of Scripture Union’s Rooted Card questions to have a question of the week, which we ask hundreds of secondary schools students for their thoughts on during our lunchtime Safe Spaces and get some great conversations flowing (here’s a video of some of them). We used a couple of the weeks this summer term to ask “What advice would you give to a Year 6 pupil before they start secondary school?”, and “If you could meet yourself from two years ago, what advice would you give?” We then were able to throw in lots of great advice from current secondary school students into our Year 6 sessions alongside the great Top Tips that Scripture Union provide in their “It’s Your Move” books and videos.
One of the highlights of our visit to Year 6 classrooms during their last term in primary school is our Strawberry Lace Race. It sounds like a classic childrens / youth worker type game, but there’s a secret twist! Obviously, I can’t reveal what that is on a public blog – you’ll need to ask me in person and we can decide if you’re worthy of knowing one of SASW Trust’s longest kept secrets! The message that the race brings is a powerful one though. It’s a reminder to young people to put their trust in the truths they know and what they have become familiar with. It’s a reminder that for many of them we will be a familiar face for them in their next big step, because we are a Christian charity believing in a faithful God who wants us to demonstrate his commitment to be with them always.
If you’re a praying person, please do remember our amazing 11 year olds starting secondary school over the next few weeks.