Column: Helping youngsters chart the path into secondary school

Bishop of Lancaster Rt Rev Geoff Pearson
Bishop of Lancaster Rt Rev Geoff Pearson

One of the joys at this time of year has been to help year six pupils think about and prepare for the transition to secondary education.

Moving on to secondary school is so much more exciting and ‘thought through’ than in my day. There are usually school visits both ways.

Secondary teachers visit primary schools and vice versa. On these transition days older children often speak positively about their experience and do their best allay fears about bullying and mythical initiation rites.

Visits to secondary school generate their own sense of excitement. Suddenly there are science labs, art rooms and news about trips abroad. Year 6 pupils move from being big fish in a small pond to small fish in a big pond.

Some local churches present to their local primary school a helpful book produced by Scripture Union called ‘It’s Your Move’ and this has been my basis for working with year 6 pupils.

The book is available to order from Scripture Union. You can find out more; order a free sample copy and watch related videos via scriptureunion.org.uk/112817.id

Early on, the book gives space for the pupils to answer three questions. The first is: ‘What will you miss from your primary school?’ More than half answer friends to that one.

The next is: ‘What is the scariest thing about your new school?’

Answers to that one are less clear-cut. Most common response ‘older pupils who seem like giants’ with ‘getting lost’ not far behind, together with ‘not making friends’.

Finally they are asked about the best thing at their new school. The answers to that one range from ‘making new friends’ to ‘learning new subjects’.

The book is full of top tips for a great new start. Although there is generally a good buzz about thinking over this topic of moving on to secondary school, I find the boys and girls are often really glad to ponder a well-known Psalm in the book as well.

Psalm 139 is a poem about how God knows everything about us; how we are fearfully and wonderfully made. It speaks of God’s protection for us and how we do not need to be nervous because God is with us. In the last group of eleven children I spoke to they all picked out different words or phrases that spoke to them.

It may be that you are moving on to a new job or a new situation. If you are then try reading Psalm 139 for your own encouragement.