Catching up with our new Year 7s

Our new Year 7 students have coped brilliantly with the transition from primary to secondary school – especially considering that the usual transition day and drama day could not happen “in person” this year because of the pandemic. This meant that, for many of them, their first time stepping on site was the day before term started for their COVID tests! Despite all the challenges, staff have been full of praise for the attitude and approach our youngest students have shown.

I’m always keen to hear from our students themselves, so I spent an hour last week with four of our newest students – Charlotte, Issy, Maddie and James – to find out what it was like for them moving up from primary school to Churchill Academy & Sixth Form. What follows is a transcript of our conversation!

The Year 7 student panel in my office, 16th September 2021

What was it like moving up from primary school?

  • Issy: I was kind of disappointed not to have the transition day, but we did have Churchill teachers visit us in primary.
  • Charlotte: Yes, we had Mr Cross and Mrs Moon visit us. With them coming to our primary school, it really helped a lot.
  • Maddie: Mr Cross, Mrs McKay and Mrs Moon came, and it was nice because they talked to us about what was going to happen. They showed us the uniform, the planners, and how it was all going to work.

Now that you’re here, did they tell you everything you needed to know? Was there anything you wished you knew that you didn’t know?

  • Maddie: Not really! They gave us a lot of information. And there wasn’t anything they didn’t tell us. They didn’t mention how long we’d have to queue for food!

You started the year coming in for your COVID tests. How was that?

  • Issy: It was fine. We got to look around the school a bit, and we snuck around to see what it was like.
  • Maddie: For our tests, we came in one way and out another, so we didn’t really see how things joined up. Things make more sense now I know where everything is.

On your first day, it was just Year 7. What was that like?

  • Maddie: it was so quiet!
  • Charlotte: it’s so busy now!

What’s it like now?

  • Issy: it’s nice to see some of the people from years before, who came before I did and who have now been at Churchill for a few years.
  • Charlotte: I was really worried about coming in and there being lots of other years, like Year 10s, Year 9s, Year 8s, but then coming in on the first day and it being just Year 7s was really helpful because I didn’t get so nervous. That was the main thing I was nervous about…that and getting lost, but then we got shown around so we didn’t get lost and it’s pretty easy once you know where things are.

Have any of your got lost?

  • All: not properly…
  • Issy: I got lost twice, trying to find the toilets in the block! I was kind of worried, that I would get lost, but I haven’t really.
  • Maddie: it was really nice having just the year 7s on the first day, because it was like everyone was getting lost together, and there wasn’t a load of other people around at the same time who know exactly where they’re going, but they’re really old and I don’t want to ask them!

And what about the older students? How has that been now that the school is full again?

  • Issy: I know most of my friends’ siblings, so it’s okay.
  • Charlotte: it felt quite weird seeing all the older years, and then seeing people from your primary that you hadn’t seen in like four years, and now you’re in the same school as them again…it’s like “I remember you, and I remember you,” and then you just keep saying it to everyone…
  • James: I’ve got used to them…it’s like a stream…they are going to their lessons and we’re going to our lessons
  • Issy: I got stuck at the bottom of the stairs going into Maths as Year 11 were going in…I just had to wait my turn to get to my classroom.
  • James: when all the school is moving around it’s like a river…you have to wait for a break in the stream to get into the flow.

Why did you choose Churchill?

  • James: it was the simplest place to go
  • Charlotte: both of my parents came here
  • Issy: it was the closest, and all of my friends were coming here, and it looked really nice
  • Maddie: we went to look at about five different schools, but they didn’t feel right…and then we came here, and it did feel right. It sounds like a story, but it’s true!

We went to look at about five different schools, but they didn’t feel right…and then we came here, and it did feel right. It sounds like a story, but it’s true!

Maddie, Year 7

How different is it at secondary compared to primary?

  • Charlotte: Definitely secondary is a big difference from primary, it’s like a big step up. At primary we were settled, and it was easy, but then in secondary they really push you to get things better. In secondary they say “you can do it better, believe in yourself, do it.”
  • Issy: It’s a big difference, like Charlotte said, but then I thought we’d get loads of homework. And we do get a lot, but to do over a longer period of time. So at primary school I’d get homework to do every day, like a page, but at secondary we get homework to do by the next week. And also it’s a huge size difference, like it’s about five times the size. And also, at primary, they’d call you in from break so you’d be on time, but at secondary if you’re late, then it’s your fault – nobody’s going to tell you to be on time.
  • Maddie: It’s a lot bigger. The classrooms are a lot bigger, especially in Science. They’re like double the size of my classroom at primary school. I feel a lot more free…that sounds a bit weird, but you feel you can do what you want a lot more. In my primary school, in the dinner hall, they told us “you sit there, you sit there,” but at secondary you can sit with anyone at dinner time.
  • Issy: In primary we had quite a big library, but mainly they were work books. Here there are loads of different types of books, and computer rooms, which I love because I love reading.
  • James: it’s weird because it feels the same, but also different…like I see the same people, and it’s the same kind of routine, but it also feels different. It feels more detached: at primary, we left our books in our drawers, then came home, and it felt like the school life and the home life were different, but here parents are move involved, like if you get an R or a C they can see it, but at primary they’d have to tell them or ring them. On my first day here it felt like it was more of a day trip!

In secondary they really push you to get things better. In secondary they say “you can do it better, believe in yourself, do it.”

Charlotte, Year 7

How have you found making new friends, meeting new people?

  • Charlotte It’s definitely way more than primary because you’re not stuck with the same people from your primary class so you don’t have so you can meet new people from like Wrington primary school Saint Andrews and so on.
  • Issy: It’s a lot easier being able to go round at break and lunch and meet new people.
  • Maddie: It’s really nice because you know people from your learning group and you walk everywhere together and that is so nice because I’ve made a friend that I didn’t know before and now we walk everywhere together.
  • James: It’s more complicated; in like primary school it’s more simple because we had like one social group but here I have a group for tutor, a group for learning groups, a social group…I have different friends for different things. It’s complicated!

Is it what you thought it would be?

  • Charlotte: It’s better than primary where it was more closed up tight. It’s like Maddie said, I just feel free now. You can do what you like, walk everywhere, even walk upstairs and we don’t have to stay in the same room for six hours.
  • Issy: Oh yeah I don’t know how to describe it. It’s just like a huge different group of people now, a huge variety and it’s not going to be the same all the time.
  • Maddie: it’s very different to primary but it’s similar to how I expected.
  • James: I had a lot of time to like imagine because there was six months where everyone was talking about the big Churchill thing! I just imagined it differently but it’s not better or worse, it’s just different than I thought. Like with library I just imagine it like dusky and oak and actually it’s bright and open.

What advice would you give to someone in Year 5 or 6 thinking about coming to Churchill?

  • Charlotte: I would tell them that if they want to go to Churchill then follow your dream and do it and don’t be worried at all because it’ll be fine once you get used to it. It is a big step but then when you’ve done the first day you’ll love it so just follow your dreams.
  • Issy: it may seem huge and it might be for a few days but then they get you get used to it and it feels smaller when you know almost everywhere.
  • Maddie: when you walk through the bit where you come in and you see all the buildings if feels a bit overwhelming, but you get used to it. You feel like… after my first day I thought I’m meant to be here, and it feels like I’ve been here for ages.
  • James: Once you get used to it it’s not really that big of a change. But I do recommend that you have a backup plan in case you miss the bus on the first day, because on the first day I missed the bus and I was very lucky my mum was there!
After all that chat, we had a chance to have a look at the Lego collection I keep in my office!

It was great to hear from our youngest students, who were full of enthusiasm, wisdom and insight. They are already great ambassadors for the Academy – and they’ve only been here a few weeks! Thank you to Charlotte, Maddie, James and Issy for a really enjoyable hour.

Students’ Voices

In our prospectus videos this year, we have deliberately focused on students’ voices.

Our main school video features seven of our students talking about their own experiences…before I pop up at the end!

In our Sixth Form prospectus video, eight of our Sixth Form students speak about the choices they have made and what they feel about Churchill Sixth Form. The music was composed and produced by the Sixth Form; they are responsible for the content.

These videos were reinforced on our Open Evenings. At both the Year 7 Open Evening in September, and the Sixth Form Open Evening this week, our students spoke to the visitors who were interested in finding out more about Churchill. They were our tour guides, our subject experts, our demonstrators and presenters. The Gospel Choir sang. And all of this is deliberate, because I know our students are proud of Churchill, that they are going to advocate for their school, and that they are our finest ambassadors. We hope our videos capture that; I know that visitors to the school who meet our students always comment on it.

Two new clubs have started this year, and student voice is at the forefront of both of them. This week Ruby and Kim from the Amnesty International Club prepared and shared a resource for tutors to help explain what Amnesty is all about, and to highlight a particular case of injustice that had moved them. Meanwhile, the Medusa Feminism Club has prepared a brand new display to highlight the importance of gender equality in school and society as a whole.

Throughout this week, students have been voting to nominate the Academy’s chosen charity for the year. All the charity suggestions were made by students, who researched and prepared cases for charities which meant something to them, including the MS Society, Phab Kids, Young Carers, Young Minds, Cancer Research UK and Mind.

I have personally been working closely with student representatives this year to help with our self-evaluation. This is the process where we assess what we are doing well, and what we could do better – the voice of students in this is essential, and working closely with a panel of students gives a really clear and honest “student’s eye” view of life at Churchill.

Every day, students’ voices make Churchill the school that it is. And, as I listened to the first rehearsal of the Junior Choir this week ahead of the Christmas Concerts, I was certain that there is no finer advertisement for what we do than the voices of the students themselves.