The move to secondary school means a number of changes for children. Not just increased homework and a whole new set of teachers, but also the switch from being the oldest in the school to the youngest.
For many pupils coming to the end of primary school, that can prompt intense worry which they are reluctant to speak about, causing their anxiety about school life to grow. This is why one group of Year 8 pupils have decided to lend a helping hand.
Students at Four Dwelling Academy, Birmingham, the smallest high school in the country, have created a book, ‘Curse of the Nomed’, which aims to help 10 and 11-year-olds as they make the move to secondary school. The book is available to buy and has already been distributed to some primary schools.
The pupils worked together to write an adventure story tackling how scary the first day of secondary school could be – and how to talk about it. ‘Curse of the Nomed’ focuses on an Egyptian God who takes over a school and wants to hypnotise children. In the story, a brave librarian comes in and works with the three children to defeat the God, all from Year 7, on their first ever day at secondary school.
They’ve worked closely with Partnership for Children, a children’s mental health charity, which supports children and their mental health around schooling. Proceeds from book sales will go to the charity.
“The kids came up with everything - the name, the story,” says Jess Wilkes-Reading, 36, corporate responsibility officer at financial services company Wesleyan, which has been working with Partnership for Children. Jess has been helping to make the book happen. “They even wrote the opening passage, blurb and synopsis themselves. They drew the characters, too,” she says.
The aim was to create an original story that was a great read, but would also help Year 6 children moving through a sometimes tricky period, an encourage them to talk about it.
The Year 8 pupils brainstormed and discussed ideas about what they wanted the story to be about. They talked about how they were “frightened, nervous but also excited” when they first started secondary school.
“We asked where they went for advice and they couldn’t put their finger on where they turned to,” Jess says. “They said they looked on the internet but they found scary and daunting things, so wanted a fun-filled book on how to have the conversation with their family and friends if they are scared.”
Partnership for Children helped the children put in reliable messaging and advice about the transition period.
The book was sent to the printers and the kids involved went along to see the publishing process. Since May this year, the book has been sent to schools throughout the country and used as a resource to ease the nerves of kids leaving primary school this year.
One Year 6 teacher in Scotland who has used the book with her pupils said: “It’s perfect for our guided reading we do with the children. They talk and ask questions and we have done a lot of work to support transition - the book is an amazing resource for their journey ahead.”
People can buy the book on Amazon, in Waterstones, or in Foyles in Birmingham. Sponsors have also bought boxes of the books to gift to schools in different parts of the country, focusing on those in deprived areas. All sales of the book go directly to Partnership for Children.
“It’s great for parents too,” adds Jess. “My partner’s daughter is 10 and we have it on the side ready for her when she goes to secondary school and she’s excited, we’re going to sit down with her and read through it.”
Top tips on helping your child transition from Year 6 to Year 7
:: Don’t be afraid to ask questions, speak to a grown up or friend or older brother or sister.
:: Be brave, but don’t be afraid to feel nervous - it’s okay.
:: Be yourself and you’ll find other people gravitate towards personality.
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