Bridging the gap at Bannockburn High School
Bannockburn High School has embarked on a successful project to involve parents in pupils’ transition from primary to secondary school. The high school welcomes between 130 and 150 new S1 pupils each year, coming from four cluster primary schools.
Although the high school already operates a buddy system and provides welcome talks at the primaries, staff felt it essential that parents were included in this process. Previous transition projects had consulted young people and partner agencies, but the school decided to extend the programme to involve parents and carers in the self-evaluation and improvement planning.
Since each of the high school’s four cluster primaries had distinct identities and a strong sense of community, Bannockburn High School decided to hold separate evening meetings for parents at each of the primary schools. At the evening sessions, parents of S1 pupils and parents with older siblings in high school shared their experiences with the parents of pupils about to make the transition. As one parent remarked, 'it was useful to find out that most parents have the same concerns'.
Teachers from both primary and secondary school attended the meeting to lead discussions, but the sessions were kept informal and parents were encouraged to reflect on the transition programme and suggest improvements. These suggestions were then taken forward by a working group, which included parents from each cluster primary area. Working together, they prioritised improvements and worked with school staff on their implementation.
The result of all their hard work was a much improved transition programme that saw parents, teachers, the local community and primary and secondary pupils working together. It quickly became clear that primary pupils and their parents responded well to talks from parents and young people who had already gone through the transition process, so the evening meeting format was continued. It gave parents a chance to talk informally and teachers say that talking about life in high school made the young people feel they had real ‘street cred’!
The new transition programme also strengthened the school’s existing peer support system, which features a buddying project between senior school pupils and the new S1 intake. Many parents were unaware of the level of support available, and the school issued more explicit information to ensure the system continued to be valued.
In fact, keeping parents informed of the school’s activities is a key theme in the transition project. Parents can now attend the visits that headteachers and senior pupils make to primary schools, access a calendar of school events and keep up to date through the school newsletter and a special transition section of the website. The parents have even launched an information booklet where they penned their own FAQs, providing a useful resource for the future.
One of the most important outcomes of the transition project is the sense of pride and partnership felt by everyone involved in life at Bannockburn High School. The school’s annual open evening now celebrates the academic achievements of former pupils and their post-school destinations, highlighting that the transition to high school can set learners on a positive path to achievement. One parent said: 'The difference to me is that I am more confident now that my daughter will hopefully have a promising education at Bannockburn High School.'