The move from a relatively small primary school, where everybody knows everybody else and is taught by just one or two teachers, to a secondary school with much older children and lessons with up to 15 different teachers in the course of a week can be a daunting prospect! We therefore do our utmost to ensure the move is both worry free and exciting. Throughout the Year 6 we provide a programme of events to ensure a seamless academic and pastoral move to New Mills School & Sixth Form.
In the spring term, Ms Gower (Progress Leader for Y7 and Y8) visits primary schools and speaks to all children making the move to New Mills School in September, getting to know them and gathering information on interests, strengths and any specific needs.
During the spring and summer terms, students in Year 6 at local primary schools have the opportunity to work with key members of staff from each of our faculties. This involves teachers from New Mills School & Sixth Form visiting the primary schools to teach lessons, and students from primary schools visiting New Mills and using the specialised facilities (for example the Science labs). These evets are dual purpose: to help New Mills staff understand the academic capabilities of new students and therefore ensure lessons are planned for strong academic progress right from day 1, as well as enabling new students to get to know New Mills teachers.
From these events, students are sorted into Year 7 tutor groups by Ms Gower and Mrs Jesson (Assistant Head). In each class we strive to achieve a balance of gender and ability, a blend of primary schools, a blend of interests (musical, sporting etc.) and that all students, as far as possible, has at least one friendly face they recognise from their primary days in their new secondary groups.
In the summer term the new Y7 students spend three days on our site in a planned programme of activities designed to familiarise them with the school's layout and routines before arriving in September. On this day they will meet their tutor and as many of their new teachers as possible. In the same week parents are invited into school in the evening to meet key staff and their child’s tutor and to pick up information for the new school year.
Our aim is to have all students starting their careers at New Mills School feeling comfortable and supported but over the summer holiday, and in the first few days concerns can arise about any number of aspects of moving to secondary school. Our Year Manager for Year 7, Mrs Johnston is always available to help new students with difficulties that may arise. We do rely on parents to keep us informed if they feel their child might be unhappy for whatever reason. When we receive information on any problems we do our best to rectify the issue rapidly.
In late September we take all of Year 7 to Whitehall, in their new teaching groups, for a one day team building event. The focus is on getting the new groups to gel and get to know one another whilst doing a range of challenging activities.
Just before the half-term in October, parents have the opportunity to come into school and meet their child’s tutor who will be able to provide an overview of how their child is settling into life at New Mills School. This is followed by school ‘snapshot’ reports in December and March. In April there is a full parents evening and a chance to meet and talk with all relevant teaching staff. Formal written reports follow towards the end of the first year.
Throughout all of this, we are just a phone call or a visit away and we positively encourage parents to stay in touch with us. It is a sad inevitability that the sort of relationship parents enjoyed with their primary school teachers is difficult to sustain at secondary school because of the number of teachers now involved in each child's education. Additionally, many parents begin to feel left behind as the nature of their child's work changes, or indeed, that they shouldn't interfere or intrude or make a fuss. On top of this, many students will actively discourage their parents from phoning up or coming into school to see how things are going - the last thing they want is for their friends to see their parents coming into school! However, we welcome such visits or phone calls, and tutors, Ms Gower and Ms Johnson are always available by appointment and can make space to meet with parents or discuss matters over the phone.