I can well remember my first day at the ‘Big School’. During my final year at primary school I had managed to pass my eleven-plus exam and secured a place at a grammar school. Getting to my new school involved a three-mile walk across the city, and when I walked into the playground I didn’t know a soul. I don’t think that I had ever felt so alone.
We were told to line up against a wall, and were then allocated to our tutor groups. My family didn’t have a lot of money, and in order to afford my uniform my dad had gone to back-street shops to get the required items. Unfortunately it soon became abundantly clear that my uniform was different to all the rest, and I stuck out like a sore thumb!
There were also the horror stories of what happened to the new kids. We were constantly told about ‘fuzzing’ – older boys would hold you down and pull a comb across the back of your neck, or you were ‘scrubbed’, which involved rubbing knuckles across the top of your head. We were also warned not to let go of our caps, as these would probably end up in the nearest nettle patch.
And what would the teachers do? Not a lot, as these ‘punishments’ were seen as all part of the initiation ceremony into Secondary School. To complain would get you labelled as a ‘wimp’.
How times have changed! These days Secondary Schools do everything they can to ease the transition from their feeder primaries. Pupils in Year 5 are encouraged to go on taster days, and in my own school we have science sessions where a whole day is dedicated to solving a crime using forensic science. I even run a Saturday morning club for Year 5 and 6 pupils who want to spend more time learning about Science and Technology!
It is quite the norm now for Secondary Schools to put on taster days for Year 6 pupils in the Summer Term. These days are a great way for your son and daughter to start acquainting themselves with their new classrooms, their new tutors, and potential classmates. Information evenings will also be organised for the parents of Year 6 pupils to allay any fears they might have, and answer their questions.
The start in a new school for incoming Year 7 pupils is a complete contrast to my baptism by fire! Invariably there will be a staggered start to the first term, and much patience and care will be given to ensuring that the Year 7s integrate as seamlessly as possible into their new environment.
Many schools now have Year 7 areas, with classrooms and playgrounds dedicated for use by the new pupils, and timetables may be specially constructed so that the Year 7s spend more time in their ‘tutor group’ classes than they would normally.
Pastoral teams will also be in place to cope with first day anxieties, and also as points of contact for worried parents. During the early part of the first term there will also probably be information evenings, where parents can voice their concerns and learn more about the workings of Secondary Schools.
Secondary Schools now readily accept the need to make the transition from Year 6 into Year 7 as smooth as possible. Indeed, many parents see this transition as the fundamental reason for their final choice of Secondary School. Check out the school maps to find the schools near you. The first few weeks or months can really prepare the way for future success, so it’s so important that we get it right.
Rest assured, the days of ‘fuzzing’ and ‘scrubbing’ are over! Now, if only my dad had been able to afford the correct uniform…
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Guest Blog by Graham Bray
Graham Bray has been a teacher for 25 years and is a regular contributor to Education Quizzes. He has a Joint Honours Degree in Botany and Zoology and a PhD in Biological Sciences. Graham is currently Director of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) at a large comprehensive school in East Sussex.