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Malvern College – Primary to Secondary – What matters most?

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Transitioning from Primary to Secondary School: What matters most to pupils?

Graduating from primary school and moving up to secondary school is one of the most important milestones in a child’s educational journey. It involves significant changes and therefore a fair amount of resilience from children who have to adjust to a different environment, new rules and procedures, an increased expectation of independence and lastly, changes in relationships with peers, teachers and even family. The transition can be quite intimidating, and – at least for some –stressful.

The way a school handles this transition can enhance a pre-teen’s experience and prepare them to embark on their secondary school journey. For Malvern College Hong Kong (MCHK), good pastoral care lies at the heart of a high-quality education. As a school with an inheritance from Malvern College UK, a boarding school committed to providing an education that looks to the whole child, the emphasis is on ensuring children’s emotional wellbeing as well as their academic progress. This article explores the transition programme provided for MCHK Prep 6 (Year 6) pupils as they move from the final year in the IB Primary Years Programme (PYP) to the IB Middle Years Programme (MYP) to become Foundation Year 1 (Year 7) pupils.

A SENSE OF COMPETENCE
“Transitioning from Prep 6 to FY1 is carefully planned between the Head of Foundation Years and the Assistant Head of Prep, together with the teachers involved in each section. The transition takes place over six weeks and provides pupils with several opportunities to experience life as well as the teaching and learning in the Senior Section,” explains Mrs Shelli Heathcote, MCHK’s Assistant Head of Prep. “The PYP is an integrated curriculum framework where different subject groups are taught in a transdisciplinary manner through Units of Inquiry. In the Senior Section on the other hand, pupils study eight different academic subjects. It is important to prepare pupils for this change, so they know what to expect.”

Apart from more formal information sessions about the new curriculum, Prep 6 pupils are given many opportunities to interact with current FY1 pupils. For example, they share break time so they can meet, socialise and ask questions to learn first-hand what life in Senior School looks like.

Another highlight of the transition programme is subject rotation: Prep 6 pupils attend FY1 classes to get a taste of the subjects they will study in the MYP, like Science, Individuals & Societies, Design and Drama. There are also combined learning opportunities through Learning Studios where FY1 pupils share highlights, opportunities and challenges of the academic year with Prep 6. In turn, Prep 6 pupils share and celebrate their end-ofyear personal inquiries with the Senior School (and the whole Malvern community) through the annual PYP Exhibition.

“We usually launch the Prep 6 transition programme in the latter half of Term 3 to allow for a range of events and activities as the school year draws to an end,” Mrs Katrina Englart, MCHK’s IB MYP Coordinator explains. “Having said that, transition continues into Term 1 of the next academic year once the pupils have started in FY1. This year for example, we prepared a scavenger hunt for our new FY1s on their first day. They had a lot of fun moving around the campus looking for clues. This allowed them to make new friends, while getting familiar with the Senior School layout.

The first week of transition also includes sessions on wellbeing, digital literacy and collaboration, designed to ease FY1 pupils slowly into the full timetable and to set them up for success in the years ahead.

“It is equally important to educate parents about the MYP curriculum as their children transition to this new academic phase,” Mrs Englart adds. “To this end, we provide information sessions at the end of Term 3 for our Prep 6 parents with new pupil and parent induction activities and workshops in August just before the new term begins. In addition, we invite parents to coffee mornings at the start of Term 1, so they can meet their children’s new teachers and ask any questions they might have about the Senior School.”

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A SENSE OF AGENCY
As the most senior pupils in the primary school, Prep 6 pupils have a prominent role amongst their peers and enjoy a sense of agency. For example, they engage in the PYP Exhibition to mark their transition from the PYP to the MYP and carry out an extended, collaborative inquiry project which they share with the entire school community. Prep 6 pupils also often hold important leadership roles like House Peer Leader or Library Leader. When they enter Senior School, however, the tables turn – as FY1 pupils they become the youngest students once again, and they have to find their feet in a new environment with new routines.

“The daily and weekly routines in Senior School often evolve around Malvern’s House system,” says Mrs Englart. “In order to help Prep 6 pupils get a better idea of these routines, they join Senior School House assemblies so they can meet their House mates and learn about their House from the older House members. In addition, they build friendships with their future tutees. House tutor groups are from across the Seniors, so FY1 pupils get guidance and support not only from their Tutor but also from older members and leaders of their House.”

A SENSE OF BELONGING
As a through-school with a cohesive leadership vision for all pupils, MCHK offers a major advantage for pupils when transitioning from Prep to Seniors. Both sections are located under one roof, and the vertical House system allows for an excellent integration between different year levels.

The increased interaction between Prep 6 pupils and their FY1 peers and teachers throughout the transition programme facilitates a seamless entry for Prep pupils into the Senior School. “While school takes a critical role in this significant phase of a child’s development, parents have a major role as well,” Mrs Englart concludes. “It is very important to keep the lines of communication open and encourage your child to talk about their experiences at school and to strengthen their friendship bonds. Despite all the challenges, secondary school is indeed a fun time, and being part of this exciting journey is very rewarding.”

Malvern College Hong Kong. Applications and Admissions: 3898 4688,
[email protected], www.malverncollege.org.hk.

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