Staff at Rivers Academy West London have used the transition period for new Year 7’s to build a foundation for learning, by devising a ‘Transition with a Heart’.

The transition between primary and secondary school can be a daunting and nerve-wracking time for both pupils and parents, but the No Limits curriculum and series of transition ideas from the team at Rivers Academy have ensured a smooth beginning to life at the Academy.

Prerna Patel, Lead Practitioner and No Limits Lead, said: “We have given them a badge saying ‘Team Rivers’, which has provided them with a real sense of belonging.

“They have proudly worn them whilst walking into school, and allows them to know that this is their place, somewhere they can feel at home.

“The emphasis at Rivers has not been to jump straight into learning, but instead, to ensure that they are feeling happy, settled and safe. If they are feeling happy, settled and safe, that is a great foundation for learning” Prerna added.

During the coronavirus pandemic, it is a strange time for pupils to start at a new school.

But, for Prerna, there is a silver lining. The social distancing and staggered start to the academic year has meant that new Year 7’s have been able to familiarise themselves with the Academy and the environment of the school a little more.

She said: “We are trying to keep things simple and consistent for the students, so they will be working in ‘bubbles’ across the entire English corridor, with teachers coming to them for lessons.

“It is important for them to know that they have started a new school, and they are cared for and looked after.

“That is something that at Rivers Academy, we are very good at.”

For Year 7 students at Rivers Academy, their ATL (Applied Transdisciplinary Learning) lessons, guided by the No Limits curriculum, further ensures a comfortable transition into secondary learning, whilst simultaneously equipping them with skills for the future.

ATL ensures a smooth transition by maintaining a personalised learning experience and a continued sense of familiarity.

In Year 7, it is possible for students to be learning alongside different students in different classes for every subject.

Having ATL lessons each day allows for the pupils to work and collaborate in teams with the same people each day, forming better working and personal relationships to work on their projects with.

“In ATL, the pupils remain in the same groups, so are able to build really strong relationships with each other and the teacher that leads them.

“They see that teacher for six hours a week, which is similar to the primary school set up. It is all organised to promote continuity and ensure a smooth transition” Prerna said.

The focus of the transdisciplinary work is to equip pupils with the knowledge and skills ready for the 21st century.

Prerna said: “Because of the emphasis on collaborating and communicating, the children have the opportunity to voice their opinions, talk and discuss.

“When pupils are in ATL class, they aren’t Year 7 pupils. They are designers, or they are entrepreneurs. We provide them that connection to real life so that they understand the relevance of what they are learning.”

This year, teaching skills for the future has taken a different form, as the coronavirus pandemic pushed educators and pupils into utilising remote learning methods such as Google Classroom.

Prerna agrees: “The remote learning process has revolutionised the way that we teach and learn.

“A lot of the ATL work will be completed online this year, so students can work collaboratively on projects from anywhere, and this better prepares them for university life too.

“We want our children to confidently go on to university and already have the skills that they need: presenting ideas, writing research papers, working collaboratively and to the standard that they know is appropriate.

“Yes, these are things expected of students at a university level. But our pupils can do it too, we just need to give them the tools to do it.”

Preparing for university and careers may feel like a long way away for Year 7’s starting at Rivers Academy this year, but it is an integral part of the ethos at the Academy, encouraging pupils to have the highest aspirations.

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