Starting secondary school can be an anxious time for children and it has been particularly challenging during the pandemic when opportunities for children to visit their new school and meet new teachers were curtailed. Many studies have shown that when pupils move from primary to secondary school, there can be a dip in their levels of engagement with school and in their motivation to learn. This can have a significant impact on both their academic achievement and their wellbeing. Perhaps one of the reasons for this often-bumpy start, is that when pupils transition to secondary school, they are generally joining a much larger community so may struggle to find their place and feel the same sense of belonging they felt at primary school.
Taking on greater responsibilities in the home and at school through participation in social action projects such as the Young Leaders Award can really help to build confidence and independence which is an important part of pupils transitioning to secondary school and settling into KS3. Opportunities to plan and carry out their own projects also helps to develop crucial organisational skills and positive mindset that their actions can make a difference and their voice is important.
Volunteering and participating in other forms of social action is also a great way for pupils to find ways to connect with, and feel a part of, their new school community and to build new relationships. Statutory guidance for schools on Relationships Education recognises the important role volunteering and social action projects can play in helping pupils to develop the positive character traits which support positive relationships both within, and outside of, their peer group (p26).
For example, as part of their Young Leaders Award project KS3 pupils at The Bishops’ Blue Coat C of E High School in Chester volunteered to tidy up the land around their local community centre, bowling green and a children’s play area, as well as clearing pathways. They dug over the gardens, planted flowers, touched up the paint and removed litter which had a positive impact on both the pupils themselves, and members of the wider local community, some of whom who wrote to the headteacher expressing their thanks to the students.
“Many of our students have increased their organisational skills through their projects. They have balanced their schoolwork, home commitments as well as volunteering hours in order to achieve their awards...Class discussions and students working together on projects have also given them an opportunity to progress their communication skills. This is also evident with their personal volunteering where students spent time with others in their local community who they would not normally spend time with.”
Teacher, The Bishops’ Blue Coat CofE High School