As the weather starts to get warmer and it feels like summer is finally arriving, once again I find myself amazed that another academic year is almost over. The exam period is creeping up and along with it comes a sense of tension and anticipation. Before we know it it’ll be the end of term and the summer break will begin.
The summer holidays used to be a period of downtime for us, with schools closed we used to busy ourselves with all the internal admin tasks we never got round to during term time. That was until three years ago when I was in conversation with a Head who happen to mention she was struggling to find someone to run her Year 7 transition summer school programme for students eligible for Pupil Premium funding. “We’ll do it for you if you like. I’ve no idea what we’ll do… but we can run something” I responded. We were already running Unlock for this school so the Head trusted us enough to feel comfortable that whatever we organised would benefit her new students and prepare them for the transition to Secondary School.
We ran a two week programme for 20 of her Pupil Premium students to great success. We took key elements of our Reframe and Unlock programmes and developed an intervention that was engaging and creative, focussed on literacy as well as soft or social skills. The programme saw these 20 students from one of London’s most deprived boroughs create a film which showcased the beauty and diversity of their area. During this time, we facilitated activities to instil a sense of inquisitiveness, developed skills in giving and receiving constructive feedback, encouraged leadership skills and built in opportunities for self-reflection.
Students decided what they wanted to include in their film and, once they’d identified who they wanted to interview, they had to make arrangements for this to happen themselves. Ok, we did a lot of training in telephone and interview skills beforehand but how many 11 year olds do you know who have managed to talk their way into the weekly meeting of the Directors of Housing for their local Council or persuaded a local historian to give up his time to talk to them about the area’s history? The confidence and experiences they gained through this was tangible. So much so that the following year, the Head asked us to run two programmes; one for 30 Pupil Premium students and another for 30 Gifted and Talented students.
Other schools had also heard about the impact we’d had on the first cohort and asked us to run something for their school. Word spread and now, as we approach summer, I’m not planning how I’m going to fill six weeks of down time, I’m preparing for six weeks of Summer School programmes across the country. I can’t wait.
Most challenging of all for us is how we tailor the programme to suit different cohorts and locations. I’m fairly comfortable that schools in Central London have enough going on around them to be able to capture enough material to create a film but I was a little nervous about more rural areas. My concerns have since been proved to be unfounded. We’ve run the programme in schools from rural Devon to Hertfordshire, each time students never cease to amaze me at the things they uncover about their local communities and areas. That sense of amazement also seems to extend to their new teachers and Senior Leaders who, upon returning to see what these students create in just two weeks, find themselves reassessing their own perceptions of their new intake – each student develops a video and written profile so their teachers have an idea of the person they are behind the stats given by their Primary school.
So, like many of us, I love the summer and the six week ‘break’, but my excitement is borne of an opportunity to have a positive impact on the development of young people, to enjoy working with them and see how creative they can be when given a bit of training and the freedom to develop ideas based on their own interests. September will come and I will also have the post-summer blues but mine will be post-summer school blues (don’t worry, I’m not completely sad, I will be taking plenty of beach holidays before and after the school holidays – I’ll have my fair share of sun and cocktails!).