Mind the Gap takes place in two phases, either side of the ‘gap’ – we’re there for students when they’re at the end of Year 6 and when they’re just starting out in Year 7.
With the summer holidays almost upon us, and the Year 6 students preparing to leave primary school forever, this year’s ‘phase one’ is nearly over. We’ve visited the Year 6s at sixteen primary schools across Wokingham and Bracknell Forest, and accompanied them to their induction days at the four big local secondary schools. We’ve talked about practicalities (what if you miss the bus?), stress and how to relax, played team-building games and practiced getting to know new people.
Kindness is key
We heard all kinds of thoughts about starting secondary school, from “I’m excited,” to “the science labs are cool,” to “I’m worried I won’t be with my friends in my new tutor group.” While some children go up to secondary school with a bunch of their primary school friends, others are preparing to enter a new school where they don’t know anybody yet.
In all the sessions and conversations we’ve had with this great bunch of 11 year-olds, we’ve been emphasizing the importance of kindness – because we don’t know how everybody is really feeling inside.
At the Year 7 induction days, the kids worked in groups to go through some scenarios they might face at secondary school. One group were given a photo of a boy looking worried on his own. They thought he might be anxious because he thought other people were talking about him. When asked what they could do in this scenario, the group said, “We could go and ask if he wants to play and be included with us.”
We saw their learning in action throughout the induction days. On a number of occasions, one of the Soulscape team was just about to go and talk to a Year 6 who was standing on their own, only for another couple of children from a different primary school to go over to them first. Kindness was definitely on display – a great start.
Year 11s aren’t scary!
One of the highlights this year has been working with year 10s. For the first time, we asked them to be our volunteers, helping to lead the Mind the Gap sessions at their secondary schools. 20 to 30 older teenagers from each school joined in with the induction activities. They were brilliant at leading small groups of Year 6s, talking them through scenarios and chatting about secondary school life.
Not only was it very helpful having them there, but it was great for the Year 6s to see that (future) Year 11s aren’t so scary. We hope that when they start Year 7 in September, they will see Year 11s who they recognise and feel reassured rather than intimidated! And we are sure these lovely Year 11s will now help out the Year 7s when they get lost or need a little help.
Mind the Gap will be on hand at the start of next term, with our volunteers welcoming the new Year 7s at the school gates and being there to chat to at break and lunchtime. Based on what we’ve seen so far, we hope to see the young people supporting one another (and perhaps Year 11 pitching in too) to make the transition to secondary school a positive time. We’ll let you know how it goes.