Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Moving up to big school

Already this year a few of last year's pupils have been back to school to let me know how they are getting on in high school. A wonder how many other high schools use the principles used in Loreto High School in Chorlton and Monks' Dyke Technology College in Louth...

Loreto High School in Chorlton, Manchester, is attempting to make itself more like a primary school. Pupils aged 11 to 13 are taught by the same teacher, called a personal learning tutor for every lesson - just as in primary.

A specialist teacher then joins classes for subjects such as maths, English, science and languages so there are two members of staff for 70% of the curriculum.

Headteacher Luke Dillon, a former primary headteacher who started at the school a year ago, says the school is trying to combine the best of the two. "We have appointed a few primary teachers, and they have gone down really well, crossing the big divide for teachers as well as pupils. Our personal learning tutors get to know the pupils' strengths, so when the maths specialist comes in, they can say that somebody is really strong on multiplication but struggles with subtraction, for example. They have an intrinsic knowledge of children's learning styles and aptitudes. If pupils are jumping around from ten to 11 teachers, you wouldn;t necessarily have that information. The children really appreciate it and enjoy it. It means that students are really in situ for a lot of the time. They're not spending five to ten minutes between lessons, and they are settled."

Lessons are a bit more fluid as well, says Dillon. "They can run over a little bit, without pupils having to make their way to another class. It's also a little bit like a primary school classroom as they can put artwork up. It's their space."

Meanwhile, Monks' Dyke Technology College in Louth, Lincolnshire, has come up with a novel way to tackle the problem of transition. Head of Year Seven, Steve Armstrong, has set up an e-buddies scheme, which allows younger pupils at 35 neighbouring primaries to e-mail older students with their queries and worries.

"When pupils used to arrive in September, they were still worried about the same things they were when we visited the primary schools months before," he says. "It was clear we weren't getting the message across and we thought, 'who do kids take most notice of? It's the people around them, not parents or teachers."

The scheme has been a great success, with about 40 children this year visiting primary schools and establishjing e-mail contact with older pupils they meet. Each student e-buddy has around six or seven younger pupils to look after. "They can e-mail the children directly and exactly the same things come up as they will around the country. They're worried about older children because they will be the youngest and the smallest; they're worried about getting lost and relationships because they're coming into secondary school where their classes and teachers change. There isn't the same familiarity on an hour-by-hour basis."

Mr Armstrong said, "We find that our e-buddies scheme does allay children's fears. Previously, children might have had their induction days in July and then worried for ten weeks. But now they can e-mail the children right through to the end of term. The feedback we get is that they feel more relaxed."

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