By Hampshire EMTAS Traveller Teaching Assistant Steve Clark
The big leap from Year 6 to Year 7
First steps into secondary school can be difficult for any pupil. Secondary schools are usually much bigger environments with more pupils and staff than most primary schools. The differences are noticeable: pupils move between lessons rather than staying in the same room all day and there is a complex school layout and timetables to negotiate. Pupils for whom English is an Additional Language (EAL) and pupils from a Gypsy, Roma, Traveller heritage (GRT) find the transition challenging. Rather than making the leap into the unknown, some GRT pupils withdraw from mainstream education and opt instead for elective home education (EHE).
This year more than any other year it will take a concerted effort from EAL and GRT children, parents, carers and schools to support their transition. The Coronavirus has led to a long absence from school for most pupils and many will find adjusting to the routines of the school day and entering a new learning environment particularly challenging.
Many EAL families may have experienced high levels of anxiety about Covid-19 and isolation especially where they have not been able to go and visit relatives or, in some cases, have any contact with them at all. Some families will have suffered bereavement and their children may benefit from bereavement counselling and/or ELSA support. EMTAS can also offer first language support for schools and families, mentoring for pupils and cultural advice for staff.
Many of our GRT families are fearful of the impact of the virus on their children and their communities and may be very reluctant to allow their children to return to school for this reason. If this is the case, schools can ask for EMTAS support for staff and the GRT communities affected.
Many GRT families are self-employed and due to the nature of their work may be experiencing high levels of anxiety due to the impact of the lockdown on their ability to continue working. Some families may be trying to off-set this by travelling further afield to secure work.
Hampshire EMTAS is, as always, ready to support all concerned with transition. Usually, we offer a transition programme for GRT pupils and EMTAS staff visit pupils in person to support and facilitate their journey from primary school into secondary. However, this year, because of social distancing, EMTAS staff are instead offering this support via telephone and can liaise with EAL and GRT parents and carers this way to answer any questions they may have and to support them with the transition. In October, after the child has started in their secondary school, an EMTAS member of staff will arrange a follow-up visit to see them to check they are settling in.
What EAL and GRT pupils, parents and carers may want to know
Lunch systems - Many schools are cashless and operate a fingerprint recognition system to pay for lunches. It is important to stress to GRT and EAL pupils and their families that their fingerprint will not be used for any other purpose.
Mobile phones - It is important to communicate to GRT and EAL pupils, parents and carers, the school’s expectations around the use of mobile phones during the school day and to clarify how they can contact each other in exceptional circumstances.
Homework - Starting a conversation between school staff and GRT and EAL pupils, parents and carers can prove highly effective in ensuring that any potential problems with completing homework are identified early on and flexible solutions found.
Uniform and equipment - It is recommended that schools have a full and clear conversation with GRT and EAL parents and carers prior to the child starting in Year 7 about what equipment the pupil will need and what is acceptable uniform including jewellery and hairstyle. This may give school staff an opportunity to address any concerns the family may have regarding cost.
Cultural factors should be considered e.g. clarification about the provision of separate changing facilities for PE and modesty -related issues to do with PE kits etc. These are particularly relevant to Muslim students and their families.
Religious observance - Sikh boys may wear a patka (head covering) or other hair covering and may, for religious reasons, not have their hair cut; hijabs may be worn by some Muslim girls. Many Muslim pupils, especially once they are in secondary phase, will observe fasting throughout Ramadan followed by Eid, a day they may request permission to take off school for religious observance.
Attendance - Communication between GRT and EAL pupils, parents, carers and school staff is vital to ensure a good level of attendance (96% or above) is maintained. Clear guidance should be given to GRT and EAL pupils and parents on how to report any absence. Maintaining a good relationship with the GRT and EAL families will help to continue the conversation and to help identify any problems with attendance.
Art, Design & Technology, Food Tech and Science – Discussions between school and parents and carers about funding and the supply of ingredients and materials for these subjects can help avoid any potential misunderstandings or disruption to the pupil’s learning.
Ideas for schools to build confidence from Day One in September
The better prepared a pupil is for their transition, the more smoothly it will go. It is a good idea for the primary school to show pupils a timetable from a secondary setting and explain to them what it means. If the secondary school can provide a digital tour of the school this year to help ease anxieties about what the new environment looks like, this would help pupils gain a little knowledge about what to expect to see on their first day. A short film introducing key staff and the Year 7 Tutor team would allow the pupils to recognise these people more readily.
Communication with EAL and GRT parents and carers in the next few weeks will help identify and hopefully answer any questions the child and parent may have.
Schools running the Young Interpreter Scheme or New Arrivals Ambassador Scheme will be able to guide pupils into supporting their peers’ transition into school.
Hopefully all our EAL and GRT children will transition successfully in September and settle back into the learning environment quickly, making new friends and picking up with old ones. Give them time to think and process as the language and pressures of a new setting may take time to build up their confidence and to participate.
For further advice and guidance please visit the Hampshire EMTAS website and the Guidance Library for EAL and GRT.
Also see our dedicated pages for:
For further information please contact Sarah Coles at firstname.lastname@example.org or the EMTAS office at email@example.com.
By Hampshire EMTAS Traveller Teaching Assistant Helen Smith
During the summer and autumn terms the EMTAS Traveller Team is always busy supporting pupils through the transition period. Historically, transition was focused on the transition from Year 6 to Year 7 and although this still remains the bulk of our work, we have now developed programmes to support Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) pupils from Year 2 – Year 3 (when a child is moving from an Infant school to a Juniors) and into Year R.
The period between Year 6 and Year 7 is the time when high numbers of GRT pupils are withdrawn to be Electively Home Educated (EHE); on average we lose about 30% of our pupils to EHE during this time. We are working hard with pupils, families and schools to reduce this number. During the spring term we meet to review the data and identify pupils that may be at risk of not successfully transferring to secondary school. There is a variety of identifiers for such pupils, which include:
no application for a secondary place made
low or erratic attendance
older siblings that are already EHE
children whom we have previously supported who we know have reservations about secondary school
We then begin transition work by contacting schools that have pupils on roll who have not made secondary applications and we offer our help. We may ask school to chase up the application and find out from parents if they need help or we may meet with school and the family to talk through any issues and barriers. Our position on school applications is always to make the application, even if you are not sure your child will be staying in school, then give it a go even if it’s just for a term.
Our transition programme is for GRT children who have secured a secondary place. It takes place during the summer term and can be delivered over a period of between 2 and 4 weeks. It includes a follow up visit in the child’s new school in the autumn term. The aim of the programme is to encourage the children to want to start thinking more positively about secondary school and the opportunities it can give them. The programme focuses on post-16 aspirations, necessary school equipment, timetables and routines and any worries, questions and concerns. The follow up can sometimes just be a phone call to the school to check that the child has transitioned and make sure there aren’t any problems. Ideally this would then be followed by a visit to talk to the child and help with any issues they may raise.
Last year we piloted a programme to help transition from Year 2 to Year 3 where children are transferring from an infant school to a junior school, i.e. it is not aimed at children who are attending a primary school. Due to time restraints, we target this offer at children who we think may struggle to settle into their new junior school. This can be because:
they have already attended several schools
they have only recently settled into their current infant school
there are SEND issues
they are an anxious child or parent
they have low or erratic attendance.
The Year 2 – Year 3 programme comprises three sessions in the infant school and two sessions in the junior school. The programme centres around similarities and differences between the two schools and is aimed at reassuring the child about any worries they may have about their new setting.
In 2018-19, we piloted a transition programme for children transferring from pre-school to Year R, or into Year R having not attended a pre-school. Again, these will be children who have been identified by us, the school, pre-school or parent as needing extra help to settle into school. This may be because:
the child has not attended any pre-school setting
the parent is anxious about the child starting school
the attendance of siblings has been erratic or low
there are SEND issues
extra support has been recommended by an outside agency.
The bulk of the programme takes place once the child arrives in the infant school, but ideally begins with a meeting with school/pre-school and parent in the summer term to discuss any issues and help with ideas for making sure the child is school ready. The programme involves one of the EMTAS GRT persona dolls. The doll and I visit the school during the first couple of weeks. The children show us around their school and share some of their school activities and routines. Our visits are recorded in the doll’s journal using photos and the children’s work. The persona doll and I will then visit again in the spring and summer terms and check on the child’s progress.
The aim of the transition is to make the experience as positive as possible to help aid retention in all phases, especially secondary. As a team, we believe the better the experience our GRT children have early in life, the more positive an influence this can have on their attitude to school and education, which can pay dividends in the secondary phase. The majority of Year 6 GRT pupils with whom we have worked over the last 4 years are still in school and about to enter their GCSE year. This is testimony to the dedication, flexibility and perseverance of our team, the GRT children, their families and in no small part the schools.
If you have a GRT pupil that you think would benefit from EMTAS
transition support, please use the website to make a referral in the normal way, ideally by the beginning of the Summer term.
Additional information pertaining to GRT support and staff training can also be
found on our website.
Meet Helen Smith and persona doll Jesse at the next Basingstoke network meeting on March 23rd at Marnel Infant School. Booking essential. Further details on our website's training tab.
by Smita Neupane and Sudhir Lama, Nepali Bilingual Assistants with Hampshire Ethnic Minority and Traveller Achievement Service
Have you ever used a Persona doll? Do you know how and why to use a Persona Doll? Persona Dolls are an ELSA resource and emotional literacy support tool used to initiate talk and to share experiences within the classroom. EMTAS were awarded an amount of money in an MOD bid to work with Infant and Early Years settings to introduce Personal Dolls to help all children cope with the demands of moving school, house, and even country with a particular focus on Service children. The Persona Doll project is also designed to involve the family and community and to share experiences with peers. It has an intergenerational element with the involvement of secondary pupils supporting the creation of some of the resources.
In the beginning…
Hampshire is an area rich with Service children across the length and breadth of the county and spanning all the educational phases. The project is designed to support Early Years children but to make it relevant, the experiences of older children was needed and had to be included in the package.
Initially, before the Persona Dolls had joined us, the work started at The Wavell School, with two Nepali Bilingual Assistants from Hampshire Ethnic Minority and Traveller Achievement Service (EMTAS) interviewing students with backgrounds from Fiji, Nepal, Malawi and Jamaica. They shared their stories and were open and honest about their experiences including the difficulties faced during transition and the worries about having a parent in the forces. They spoke of homesickness and missing friends and family, the foods they missed and aspects of their lives that had changed. Some of the students were UK born so had not lived in their parents’ country of origin so they took time to find out as much about their culture and history as they could through their families and community. The students created talking books from this information that included pictures and speech both in English and first language. Some of the books included nursery rhymes from their culture and how to count in their first language. The books are proactive and help bring the Persona Dolls alive. The Wavell children chose the dolls and named them ready for their journey into their schools.
When the Talking books were all prepared and each Persona Doll had its name and a passport produced, they were packed up ready to travel with their big note book to record their experiences. The dolls have been taken to infant and primary schools all over the county and the idea is that they stay in that school for roughly half a term and then they are off on their travels again. The doll is taken into the school and introduced into the class where it will be staying and the children get to ask it questions and to find out what it likes and dislikes.
Some ground rules were set:
- doesn’t matter how dirty the doll gets
- no face painting, hands or feet painting of the doll!
- it is not to be used as a reward
- it has to be included on the register
- it has to have its own seat, peg etc.
- it has to have lots of different experiences
- everything has to be recorded in the Persona Doll’s book and shared.
The first doll to leave EMTAS was Himal, a Nepali boy, and he went off to Talavera Infant school and Becky the class teacher. Becky and the class totally embraced this project and the work was amazing. Himal attended an Eid festival where he was gifted new shoes. He went to a Christening. He went to a hot tub party (but just watched). He also shared his feelings about moving to a new school and how this made him feel.
The Persona Dolls generate lots of discussion with the children. It encourages them to think about how they feel when they experience trying something for the first time. It makes them think about what a good friend is and how a good friend can support a new arrival. It allows the children to talk about things that may worry them about transition and about what is happening in their lives at home and at school.
Desired outcomes …
It is hoped that the eight dolls will continue to transition from setting to setting and may even revisit schools they have been to already as can happen with Service children.
One of the aims of the project was to help build up pupil self esteem and confidence. It is hoped that through exposure to the stories children will want to talk and share their own feelings and experiences. Through listening to each other’s experiences it helps children realise that they are not alone in what they are feeling and it is okay to feel that way.
While the project has a fun element of taking the doll to different celebrations and events it is also teaching social and emotional skills through communication and responsibility.
The feedback so far from two schools has been very positive and the children have loved having their guest to stay and were really sad when they left. This too helped teach pupils resilience as many children feel unhappy and lost when their best friend moves on and this helps them build up coping strategies to deal with this and invites discussion within the classroom to look at feelings.
Do you want to be part of this?
If you are a Hampshire school and would like to be part of this ongoing project please email Claire Barker, firstname.lastname@example.org. We would be delighted to have you come on board and training is available this term.
Please see our website for further information on the use of Persona Dolls.
If you are a school outside Hampshire and would like a chat about how to set this up in your area, please contact Claire Barker, email@example.com.
By Laura Harman-Box, Year 6 teacher with responsibility for the New Arrival Ambassadors (NAA) at Talavera Junior School with an introduction from EMTAS Specialist Teacher Advisor Claire Barker.
Recently I had the pleasure of working in Talavera Junior School in Aldershot. I went to train thirteen young people to be New Arrival Ambassadors (NAA). Talavera Junior School is a very diverse school that welcomes children from many counties, cultures and religions. Many of their children are from Service families and this is one of the groups than New Arrivals Ambassadors works particularly well with. Many Service children are used to transition in their lives and are able to talk confidently about what makes a good transition for them. The children who have experienced transition all say how they wished they had had a New Arrivals Ambassador when they went to their new school. It highlights to the whole cohort that is being trained that everyone - adults and children - experience the same fears and insecurities when faced with a new challenge and setting. Laura Harman-Box, Year 6 teacher at Talavera with responsibility for NAA had this to say after the training:
The New Arrival Ambassador Scheme seemed like a perfect fit for our school, working both as a welcoming system for our high level of new entrants and as a chance to develop leadership qualities in our pupils.
As a school in a garrison town, our school population can be very turbulent. This is, understandably, difficult for some pupils, particularly when they find it hard to then find their place in their new environment. We believe that we offer great support for pupils who enter at an unusual time of the year but are also aware that some pupils will need additional transitional support. Who better to deliver this than the peers with whom our new arrivals will be learning, playing and growing?
We chose our New Arrival Ambassadors based on the emotional literacy level of the children and children who would themselves benefit from taking on a role of responsibility within our school. The training itself was such a positive experience, in part because of the diverse range of children (ethnically, culturally, age-wise, academically, with regards to interests) who could bring an eye-opening number of experiences to this scheme. Encouraging and providing opportunities for all pupils is a fundamental value of our school, especially leadership roles. The NAA Scheme has provided us the chance to give this opportunity to children who may not otherwise always get it.
Our pupils' well-being is a continued focus for us and the
NAA scheme provides another valuable way of ensuring all pupils feel safe,
comfortable and ready to learn. This is the start of a journey for our New
Arrivals Ambassadors, one that they cannot wait to begin! Here are their comments:
Today we learnt about becoming a New Arrival Ambassador and how we can help new arrivals with settling in their new class without making them panic. We learnt today that new arrivals can choose who they want to be friends with, which surprised some of us. We thought it would be our job to be their friend but our trainer, Claire, helped us to understand that everyone should choose their own friends. We were taught that if a new arrival tells us something and it is serious, we must tell the teacher immediately due to the fact that we can't always help them. We've learnt that a New Arrival Ambassador is a very important job and we must work hard to continue to represent our school and make every new pupil feel comfortable and safe here. We look forward to being New Arrival Ambassadors!
Visit the Hampshire EMTAS website to find out more about the NAA and come back soon to read a blog comparing the NAA with the Young Interpreter Scheme.