Hundreds of young people, whose education has been badly disrupted by the pandemic, were given a welcome glimpse of what life will be like in their new secondary school.
Before COVID-19 Year 6 students in their final year at Cramlington’s eight primary schools would make several visits to the town’s Junior Learning Village to experience lessons and activities and meet teachers and their new classmates.
As this was not possible during the last academic year the school invited all of its newcomers to come to one of two week-long summer schools.
Nearly 300 children took up the offer and senior staff at the school also met around 50 parents to discuss any concerns.
“It’s such a big step at any time, but particularly for this group of students who haven’t had a full year in school since they were in Year 4,” said Damian Clark, the Junior Learning Village’s head teacher.
“There have been so many unknowns over the past 18 months and parents want to know that their child will be looked after and get the support they need.
“It’s been really tough, particularly for the kids. One of the big challenges for them is to connect with somebody from a different school they haven’t met before.”
The theme of the summer schools was The A to Z of Space with the children learning about Outer Space; the learning spaces at Cramlington Learning Village – which this year is welcoming 2,000 students – and, as part of the school’s focus on its students’ mental well-being, headspace.
There were lessons in Numeracy, Literacy, Science and French and activities including drama, art and cycling. Coaches from the Newcastle United Foundation delivered sessions on skills and teamworking.
New student Layla from Cragside Primary said: “The school’s bigger inside than it looks outside.” Her friend Janoma added: “I was really nervous. I was scared in case I wouldn’t know where the classes were. But when I come here I’ll now know where to go.” Elise from Burnside Primary School said: “It’s been really good fun and doesn’t feel like we’re at school.”
At assembly on the students’ second morning there was a forest of hands when they were asked if they had made a friend from a different school. “That was great to see,” said Mr Clark. “This will make a big difference to them and their emotional reaction to coming to school. They’ll have met some of the key staff and have that feeling of familiarity, which is what we’ve been aiming to provide.
“The staff are really looking forward to getting back into the classrooms and we can’t wait to welcome everybody back.”
As well as the summer schools Cramlington Junior Village has recruited a new member of staff – with considerable experience of working in primary schools – to support students whose progress might have been slowed down because of the impact of the pandemic on their education.
There is also a new team at the top of Cramlington Learning Village after head teacher Wendy Heslop retired after 35 years of service at the school. She has been replaced by co-head teachers Kim Irving and Jon Bird, who were both members of Mrs Heslop’s senior leadership team.