20th July 2012
Secondary students get a Headstart in key skills
THE bell may be sounding today for the end of the academic year but staff at some of the Island’s secondary schools will spend part of the summer bringing literacy and numeracy alive for students joining them in September.
More than 100 11-year-olds who are making the move from primary to secondary school have been identified to take part in week-long ‘Headstart’ schemes during the holidays.
Ballakermeen High, Castle Rushen High, Queen Elizabeth II High and Ramsey Grammar are taking part. They and their partner primaries have identified students who would benefit from the schemes and their parents or carers have been contacted.
The schemes aim to make learning numeracy and literacy fun and related to everyday contexts.
Last year, schemes used sites such as Mooragh Park and Peel Castle to help students understand that these skills are useful not only in the classroom but are also essential in everyday life.
Jan Gimbert, School Improvement Adviser for 11-19 Education with the Department of Education and Children, attends Headstart sessions to review them in action.
‘Staff are creative in how they work with students to support the development of literacy and numeracy skills. For example, cookery plays a part in many Headstart schemes, either in the use of numbers or instructional writing.
‘One scheme I visited last year had students making chocolate muffins. Students enjoyed the practical part of the activity and, as the muffins cooled, the teacher drew the group together to summarise their learning.
‘It was clear that students understood the purpose of their learning and, when questioned, were able to describe the procedure they had undertaken and use technical English terms such as the imperative verb in their responses.
‘As literacy and numeracy are fundamental to learning in all subject areas, approaching the development of these skills in this way helps students understand the truly transferable nature of these skills.’
Mrs Gimbert said:
‘Headstart aims to personalise learning for students by the use of individual targets and regular feedback. Home/school links also play an important part in this. Parents and carers can give extra support through conversations with their child at home about their learning in an area where they have perhaps had some difficulty in the past.’
As well as noting an improvement in their child’s literacy and numeracy skills, parents filling in evaluation forms have recognised an increase in their child’s confidence and the positive impact on their child spending extra time with secondary staff who will then be familiar faces in September.
Headstart schemes are organised by the schools but funded by the Department of Education and Children.
Tim Crookall MHK, Minister for Education and Children, said:
‘We recognise the vital importance of literacy and numeracy skills for our students and we are aware that this boost may help them better access all areas of the curriculum when they take the landmark step of starting secondary school.
‘We are happy to support these schemes and I’d like to thank the teaching staff who’ll be giving up part of their summer holidays to make this learning opportunity both valuable and enjoyable for students.’
Photo: Tim Payne (left) and Fraser Heginson making muffins at a Headstart scheme held at Ballakermeen High School