I’m sure we can all recall the time when we said good-bye to the familiarity of our local pre school or primary school, ready to start a new journey in a much bigger, but often slightly scarier, setting. However, can we remember the work our teachers did with us to make us feel comfortable with this huge life change? Did someone spend time with us allaying our fears and helping us to explore from where our anxieties were born, and how best to work together to alleviate them? We are certain many schools struck the balance perfectly!
It is this moment in time, this very short but influential moment, where the emotions a child feels when changing schools can be responsible for setting the foundations on which this new chapter in their lives sits. If we can make it a happy and positive experience, then hopefully children will progress in secondary school feeling supported, nurtured and at ease. If we fail to address these concerns correctly, then we run the risk of small anxieties growing into larger fears that underpin the beginning months and years of KS1, KS2 or KS3.
Having worked with Reception, Year 2 and Year 6 students for the past 15 years delivering a range of ever changing transition plays and workshops, we understand implicitly the power drama has to explore the concerns, but also hopes and dreams, involved in transition in a safe and inclusive way. Through encouraging children to reflect on the lives of others, without asking them to expose their own inner thoughts and feelings if they don’t feel able, we allow them to contribute opinions and advice without feeling overly vulnerable.
Interestingly, despite our commitment to adapting our plays and plans year on year, the most common fears that young people have, at any age, continue to be enduring such as loss of fiendships, new stricter rules, higher expectations, and being bullied by those in older years.
This year alone we have worked in over 25 schools in London, and another 15 in the North East, Wales and South West, helping them to sensitively explore all the many factors involved in school transition this summer. Since May we have been overwhelmed by extraordinary stories of engagement, friendship and positivity from school teachers and our facilitators, all contributing to our strong belief that this year has been one of our most successful yet!
Read about just some of our successes below and a BIG Bigfoot thank you to all of our wonderful schools and facilitators who continue to make such a difference in the lives of young people undergoing transition this summer!
North East Bigfooter Steph, delivered our new wonderful film project at New Seaham Academy called ‘Memories and Moving On’. Developed by Rachel Adamson, it is a perfect way consolidate all the many treasured memories children have of their Primary schools, ensuring they have a lasting tribute to look back on in years to come. The head teacher said about our visit: “By all accounts the day was just brilliant. Some initial comments from our children included: We now feel a lot more confident with the move up to new school/ It helped us deal better with the school transition/ We could be honest and express our feelings throughout the day.”
Kat Merrick, London Bigfooter, spent time with Year 1 students at Priestmead Primary delivering our Little Steps programme and had this to say:
“I was working with a year one class (apparently it’s quite a jump from year one to year two in this school) and had one little girl who was very worried about moving up. When we did the activity about drawing your dreams, she drew the picture attached, and said that she was worried about more work, having a new teacher, loosing friends, and doing SATs exams.
Throughout the session, this girl made a real effort to get involved in the drama activities, and it was particularly lovely to watch her creating tableaux. When it came her turn to perform, I was so impressed with how thoughtful her group piece was; she and her group had clearly taken the opportunity to really consider how to solve their potential problem.
When we evaluated our work at the end, her comment was that she had been really worried about moving to year two, but now that she had practised it with her friends, she could now see that it wouldn’t be too scary and she would know what to do if things went wrong.”
Jules Tipton, who recently worked with year 6 students in Petts Hill Primary School, follows on from Kat by telling us the her story:
“We had such a positive day! All students were fully engaged throughout and were very supportive of each other; especially when ensuring that the 2 boys who are statemented with ASD were involved and could access all the practical freeze frame and discussion tasks. All children enjoyed making lists of what they were looking forward to in their new school, as well as what they would miss in their old, together and it provided a real talking point.
The headteacher, Valerie Upton, who originally chatted with me in the morning about how severe anxiety re. transition was impacting on the behaviour of some of the boys in particular, came in to witness much of the great work taking place. The day previously the school had also arranged a visit from the liaison teacher from one of the high schools they are going to, so the Bigfoot session was a timely, and much appreciated by all, follow up!”
Cheryl Felgate received some high praise from the head-teacher after her ‘Everything Changes’ storytelling session with students at Haimo Primary: “Thank you for our wonderful ‘Everything Changes’ workshop this morning. It was such a great way of supporting our nursery children with their transition to Reception through the power of storytelling and metaphor.”
Bigfoot South West have been carrying on with their transition programme this July with a fair few Devon secondary school induction days. Their ‘Moving on Up’ performance and workshops have been gratefully received by all students and teachers, and the workshops were a really lovely way of the tutors getting to know their students and vice versa. Concerns and excitements were shared, and Kate and Duncan did a great job; well done!
Bigfoot Wales also had another wonderful transition experience at Fitzalan high school in Cardiff. The children absolutely loved our ‘Moving on Up’ performance, with each new form class then working with a Bigfoot facilitator exploring all their hopes and fears about transition. A whopping 12 Bigfoot facilitators in the school worked simultaneously with each new form group, with the assistant head teacher, Yvonne Roberts- Ablett, afterwards emailing Jo at our Cardiff office to say:“I just wanted to pass on a huge thank you to your team for another excellent session. The pupils came back this afternoon buzzing after a terrific day but I didn’t get to see any of the team before they left so please pass on our thanks”
Facilitator Rachel Clement said “The play raised lots of their worries, which we explored in the drama session. The group all said how nervous they felt but how excited they were to start in September. As the workshop progressed the group felt comfortable working with new people and sharing their fears. The last task helped them see the positives about moving to a new school. They created poster adverts which highlighted the new things that they were looking forward to e.g. school dinners, science, maths, sports etc.They left feeling really positive about their future and how this new start in their lives will help them with their chosen careers.”