Year 6 to Year 7 – a transition project

The move from primary to secondary school has long been one of the key landmarks in a child’s educational journey.

But while that transition has always brought its own challenges, the rise of mobile phone ownership among youngsters, and the presence of social media in their lives, has thrown up new issues alongside the old.

Storyhouse is hoping to tackle both in Me, Myself and iPhone, a new wellbeing initiative being launched this June and aimed at supporting the county’s Year 6 pupils as they navigate their way to ‘big’ school after the summer holidays.

The cross-curricular project is a joint initiative between Storyhouse and Tara Jones, a former deputy headteacher, curriculum expert and co-founder of LiMIT, a company which looks at obsessive and compulsive phone use.

“Year 6 is a really busy time in schools; you’re gearing up to SATS and then you find you need to start thinking about how you’re going to best prepare your pupils for secondary school,” explains Tara, who came up with the original idea for Me, Myself and iPhone and suggested it to Storyhouse after taking part in last autumn’s Wayword Festival.

“What we know is it can really be a time of self-doubt for pupils; they can actually feel quite isolated despite moving on to a much bigger school – an ‘empty in a crowd’ feeling. And then we now have this added pressure of social media.”

While she agrees there are always going to be anxieties about making that momentous move, the prevalence of phones among Year 6 pupils where it’s estimated up to 90% own them – and increasingly among Year 5 too – has certainly created a potential extra minefield that needs to be carefully navigated.

Storyhouse’s Schools and Education Manager Jacob Maudsley alerted primary schools about the project just before the Easter break, and by the time they returned, teachers had already signed up around 200 youngsters – twice the number he and Tara had initially envisaged when they created the programme.

Jacob reveals: “This is a project we’ve touched upon in the past, the transition between Year 6 and Year 7, at the behest of our partner schools who have asked ‘could you put a workshop together?’ It kept popping up. And especially in the post-Covid universe it was a theme I was keen to develop Storyhouse’ response too further.

“A lot of schools, secondary and otherwise, do fantastic work around this already, that’s fair to say. It’s just that sometimes a lot of it comes from the perspective of the high school and sometimes it’s perhaps nice to have neutral ground to explore something that isn’t on school’s turf.”

On June 13 there will be a morning of workshops and activities planned which together will explore themes like individuality, identity, acceptance and belonging, including – crucially – having the courage to be yourself.

The historical lesson of Ancient Egyptians who would pay people to attend their funerals as mourners, thus making them seem popular, will be used as a way in to discussing how important friendships in person are as opposed to the quest for popularity through social media.

Pupils from two of Storyhouse’s partner schools, Kelsall Primary and Newton Primary, will give creative responses to two related pieces of subject matter; the notion of losing your mobile phone and the story My Shadow is Pink respectively.

And importantly, a group of current Year 7 students will be on hand to answer any questions from the primary school youngsters about their own experiences of moving school – and offer some peer-led tips for easing the transition.

Of course, not all Year 6 pupils might be worried about making the move in September.

Tara agrees, but adds: “We’re also teaching – well what do you do for your peers? If you’ve not got an issue but you recognise it in a friend, it’s how can you then take on that role of ‘hey, come along with me’.

“For example, I went from a rural village to a much bigger secondary school and a friend used to hold on to my backpack in the corridor because she was so stressed. I was the youngest of five kids and was used to hustle and bustle, so I wasn’t fazed by the busy corridor. So at least I was able to then be a friend to somebody else. And it’s about sharing little stories like that.”

Jacob says: “It will be collaborative, conversation-based and will help the young people who attend realise that the Year 7 students they’ll be asking questions of were in their shoes 12 months ago. They’re not alone. And yes, perhaps there will be challenges to confront, there are questions to ask, but they are questions that have answers. Any issues that are causing any form of anxiety, there are solutions to them.

“And if we can help in any way, shape or form to bridge that gap and help find those solutions, and be a different voice, I think that’s really important and we’re really keen to do that.”

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