Settling in at Senior School

The transition from junior school to senior school is an exciting yet potentially testing time for children – new teachers, new subjects, new friends and navigating their way around a much bigger school site are among the opportunities and challenges Year 7s are likely to encounter.

Every school has a programme to help smooth the way and, at Withington, this starts at the end of June with an Induction Day, where new pupils find out which form and house they will be in, who their form tutors are and begin to find their way around the school.

Head of Year 7, Mrs Julia Johnston, explains that Withington’s Year 7 group is made up of pupils from Withington’s Junior School, who make up around half of the cohort, and pupils from a wide range of both maintained primary and independent prep schools – over 25 different schools in 2022. “Our priority is to bring these girls together and to make sure they all get their senior school career off to a positive start,” she says.

The first three days of the new academic year are devoted to helping the pupils settle in. Day one is focused on finding their way around the school, getting to know others in the form, learning about the timings of the school day and, important to new Year 7s, sampling the delights of the snacks and meals on offer at breaks and lunch time.

Many new Year 7s sign up for music lessons and day two sees an immersive musical experience with Let’s Make Music Day. “Wearing their new House t-shirts, every pupil has the opportunity to play instruments with which they may be familiar as well as try out new ones. The day culminates in a show featuring the pupils demonstrating their musical skills, some only learnt that day.”

Day three aims to give the Year 7s a strong start to their academic life at Withington with a focus on study skills. “We show the girls techniques to help them be organised in their approach to lessons and homework, how to take notes in lessons, an introduction to the library and using our learning platform, OneNote, and other online resources. There’s also a session teaching them how to draw on the important wellbeing technique of mindfulness,” says Mrs Johnston.

The culmination of the induction phase is a residential at Ghyll Head Activity Centre in the Lake District. Here the Year 7s, already starting to forge new friendships and getting involved in a wide range of clubs and activities at school, have the opportunity to expand those relationships with their peers through collaboration and teamwork across activities such as kayaking, rock climbing, zip wiring and an adventure trail. “It’s wonderful to watch the bonds between the girls strengthen as they encourage and support one another throughout each activity, and there’s lots of laughter and fun along the way. Year 13 peer supporters accompany the trip, an aspect much appreciated by the Year 7s, and they return to school buoyed with confidence and fully prepared to take on their first year of senior school.”