Every year we look forward to welcoming new pupils to Year 3 and our priority is that they feel settled and happy. It’s an exciting time with preparation starting back in June, before the beginning of the school year, when we hold a transition afternoon for new pupils to come in and meet each other and our team.
The children take part in a variety of icebreaker activities, and this year we read “Odd Dog Out”, Rob Biddulph’s book about celebrating differences, to encourage them to introduce themselves and be proud of who they are. We find this afternoon works well because it allows the children to familiarise themselves with the school, teachers and teaching assistants as well as other children in the form.
Our focus in the first six weeks of the school year is on children’s pastoral wellbeing, with the curriculum introduced gradually through the term. Each form teacher will allocate a seating plan so that the children can meet pupils they don’t already know and become familiar with each other better. A personal touch we like to do for each new pupil is to leave a letter addressed to them on their desk, written by a Year 4 pupil from when they were in Year 3. This aims to engender a sense of belonging for the children, so they feel part of our community from their very first day.
We are conscious that prior to joining, pupils come from different educational settings, and they might have had different experiences. Our aim is to spend time getting to know the pupils so that we can understand their individual needs and support their transition to the Junior School.
Inevitably, some children may not immediately feel at ease when they join, and we have several measures in place to help them. This year, we’ve launched the Year 4 and Year 6 friendship ambassadors who have been selected by their form teachers to help support new pupils. Our Year 6 ambassadors also help younger children with their reading, or they might be paired up with children in the playground. The older pupils enjoy it and it’s incredible to see how mature they become when they are caring for someone younger than themselves.
Our school is fortunate to have a team of fantastic Teaching Assistants (TAs) who support our pupils in and out of the classroom. The small gestures that the TAs make help the pupils to feel noticed. Whether it is giving a pupil a smiley face sticker or greeting them when they arrive in the morning, it really does make a difference and helps the children to trust and approach other members of the team other than their form teacher.
We have a designated friendship bench in the school that pupils can sit on to signal that they want some help during break times, either from the friendship ambassadors or one of the duty team who will check in with them. Our drama playground is a place where children can go if they want to get away from the excitement of the main playground and engage in a quiet activity, such as reading or playing chess.
There are so many opportunities for pupils to mix with each other, both in their own year group and from the years above. The Junior School has a House system where pupils work together towards a common goal and participate in a range of competitions and whole school initiatives. The House Sorting Ceremony, where the new pupils find out which House they are going to be in, is a hugely anticipated and enjoyable event that further enhances a sense of belonging for the children.
We know it’s not just the children who are curious about the Year 3 experience. Within the first few weeks of term, we run an information evening where parents and carers can meet the team, go into their child’s classroom with their form teacher, experience how their child is taught and ask questions.
This transition time does bring about some changes, but it is one which we provide meaningful support for. Being patient and nurturing is the best approach to take, as well as giving the children time to adjust and get used to new expectations.