Haili Hughes is an English teacher at Saddleworth School in Oldham. Having said goodbye to her year 11 form at the end of the summer term, Haili writes about how much she’s looking forward to welcoming a whole new class of year 7 students to secondary school.
Every five years, one of the most exciting events in a teacher’s pastoral duties occurs: they are lucky enough to welcome a new form of year 7 pupils into their care, to guide them on their secondary school journey. After bonding with my previous form for five years and the bittersweet experience of seeing them leave during the strange and unprecedented COVID-19 outbreak, welcoming a new form is a joyful antidote to the sadness of saying goodbye to the young people who have just gone on to pastures new.
Usually, under more normal circumstances, the transition to secondary school would have started just after Christmas, leading up to new intake day, where year 6 pupils would descend on their new school and spend a day meeting their new teachers, experiencing what high school is like and making new friends. This is one of the days I particularly look forward to every year, as it’s full of keen and engaged learners who are excited by school and it’s a chance to meet the students you will be working closely with for the next five years.
Of course, this year, the usual transition days did not take place, but we adapted to the challenge and still managed to facilitate meetings and introductions – albeit online. Even though it wasn’t in person, it was still so lovely to see their eager faces and hear all about their hobbies, hopes and dreams, and also to answer any questions that they may have had. Some pupils were on holiday for the scheduled meeting, but I made arrangements to telephone them when they returned, and these were lovely conversations that I hope put them more at ease.
A couple of weeks ago, I sent each of the members of my new form a card and some sweets to remind them that I am really excited about meeting them. I hope they are looking forward to this new chapter in their school life too!
We re-open for autumn term next week. It is an uncertain and worrying time in education, but my school has put many measures in place to ensure that staff and students stay safe. There will be a one-way system in corridors that students will be shown and they are encouraged to wash their hands as often as possible during the day. As they are in a year group bubble, they will be avoiding contact with large groups of pupils who are in different years - they have different break times and staggered starts and finishes to help with this.
When my year 7s arrive for their first day next week, I am looking forward to greeting them at the gates and trying to put them at their ease by showing them a smiley, familiar face. On their first day, they will be the only year group in the school, which will give them the opportunity to get to know the school in a more relaxed way, almost like a delayed version of the traditional transition day they missed.
The first hour will be spent in their form group where I can give them their school planners and timetables and explain some of the routines and systems we have in place. Routines are important and they help to create a calm and predictable atmosphere for new students, which is a big help when some may be anxious about their new school life. They will be given a tour of the building by some of the senior prefects and Head Boy and Head Girl and will get the opportunity to do some English, maths and science with their new teachers. Although I will not be able to escort my new form all day, each form will also be accompanied by their assigned teaching assistant, which will give them a sense of comfort and familiarity.
After they have finished their first day, I am sure they will be really excited about coming back the next day, already beginning to feel part of our school family.