With a new Year 7 cohort safely settled into secondary school, Soulscape’s Michelle McLeish reflects on this year’s Mind the Gap project.
Mind the Gap remains one of my favourite projects. It’s a project that is easy to get involved with and really valued by students and staff.
We’ve had to adapt Mind the Gap over the past two years thanks to the pandemic. But we’re so grateful that it’s gone ahead!
Last year, I delivered all our Year 6 workshops by videolink. This year we got to do them in person again, but 2021 was still a little different.
“Mind the Gap explained lots of things to us about secondary school and they eased my worries. I am looking forward to attending now. ”
– Year 6 student
Instead of the usual induction days that secondary schools run at the end of the summer term, this year lots of them put on summer schools for the new Year 7s. We helped three local schools with theirs, and it was great fun. Seeing students at the start of the week looking wide-eyed and nervous and watching them gain confidence, get to know each other and enjoy themselves was heart-warming.
During our team building activities we got to know the young people a little more and they got to know each other in a fun, rather loud environment!
“The fun games reassured me and helped me meet and get to know new people, which made me feel like I’m not alone in a big secondary school.”
– Year 6/7 student
The big first week
As always, our team was there to support Year 7 through the first week of school in September. There were tears for some. Parents appreciated being able to leave their young person with someone who had time to chat and walk with them to where they needed to be. They liked knowing there’d be someone from Mind the Gap to check in on their son or daughter at break and lunch.
This September, we’ve played team-building games, helped students to find lockers, to sort out lateral flow tests, find classes and lost items, and make new friends. I loved hearing how they were settling in during the week.
“I found it really helpful to have them around especially on the second day when I forgot where my form room was and where a couple of my classes were.”
“I appreciate having Mind the Gap people around and feel so much more at ease when they are here to guide us, greet us in the mornings, and give us fun settling-in sessions.”
– New Year 7s
Finding her new squad
One young person came up to me during the first day of school, and was clearly upset and trying very hard not to cry. She told me she didn’t know anybody.
I walked with her and suggested she look around for someone she recognised from her form or one of her classes. Once she spotted a group, we went over to talk to them.
I introduced her and explained that she didn’t know anyone and asked whether she could sit with them. One of the other students piped up that she didn’t know anyone either and she should definitely join them.
The next day at break time I saw a few of them sitting together and went over to check in. One of the young people said, ‘no need to worry about her, she’s part of our squad now!’
At lunch, staff from learning support came to ask me whether I knew a particular student as her mum had called in worried about her. It was the same young person! The staff member was so thankful that we had already picked up on this and helped her settle in. And I was really happy with the friendly young people who had taken on board all our messages about including and helping each other out.
“The thing I most enjoyed about the team building session was that since it was the first day, everyone was a bit nervous and shy with one another, however by the end of the session we all sort of started to get to know each other and loosen up a bit more with one another, and came out with some new friends.”
– New Year 7
It was really obvious this year how much students (and staff) appreciated our Mind the Gap volunteers – perhaps especially this year when many young people have been feeling extra anxious or lonely. The students know that we are there just for them to help them settle in well. And we know that a positive start to Year 7 will set them up for a better experience of secondary school.