2019 Autumn Term 2

The know zone

  • Reception baseline assessments
    ASCL Primary Specialist, Tiffnie Harris, gives an update on the new Reception Baseline Assessment (RBA) pilots and says while overall feedback has been positive, there are some concerns. More
  • Building strong foundations
    Business Leadership Specialist, Hayley Dunn, shares top tips to help you work effectively with your school business leader. More
  • Collaboration wins the day
    Deputy Director of Policy, Duncan Baldwin, on why collaboration gets a 'gold star' and the DfE gets 'must do better'. More
  • Internal scrutiny
    While the new Academies Financial Handbook adds more regularity burdens on trusts, if employed correctly, the scrutiny undertaken can add significant value to trusts and reassure trustees that key risks are being mitigated effectively, says James Taylor from Cooper Parry. More
  • Mobile coverage
    Do you allow mobile phones to be used in class or do you have an outright ban on usage? Are they useful or are they a hindrance in your school or college? Here, ASCL members share their views. More
  • Equality for all
    Chief Executive Officer Kamal Hanif OBE has been a member of ASCL Council since 2015 and is on the Council's Ethics, Inclusion and Equalities Committee. More
  • Little wonders
    A new intake of 11 year-olds is a colourful, joyous - and well-equipped - thing to behold. If only we could bottle that initial courage and infectious passion for later years, says one head. More
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A new intake of 11 year-olds is a colourful, joyous – and well-equipped – thing to behold. If only we could bottle that initial courage and infectious passion for later years, says one head.

Little wonders

September has arrived again as it does with admirable regularity and with it comes the tide of excited, shiny and – in some cases – incredibly tiny Year 7 students. 

They stream in, proudly wearing their new uniforms, many of which were obviously bought with the mantra “You’ll grow into it” clearly in the mind of the parent, their pencil cases over-stuffed with pens in every hue and an array of geometry equipment that would have confused Sir Isaac Newton.

Each lesson with these inquisitive youngsters shows their determination to do everything perfectly and a willingness to ask as many questions as it takes to ensure that perfection.

“OK, here is the title and date on the board. Copy them neatly on to the top line of your paper with a pen and underline with a ruler,” is my instruction.

“On the top line, sir?”

“Do I write in pen or pencil?”

“Can I use blue pen?”

“Can I use black pen?”

“Do I underline with a ruler?”

“Do I put the title and the date?”

“How do I spell the title?”

“What’s the date?”

Incredible enthusiasm

They have an incredible enthusiasm and joy for learning and trying new things. Putting together a clamp-stand in science – one of the jobs you do before you do the fun exploding, burning, colour-changing experiment – is a fantastic experience on its own and elicits the kind of excitement that Year 11 would struggle to muster if you reanimated a corpse in the lesson that then performed Gangnam Style.

They revel in their new-found status at big school and the responsibility that now rests on their shoulders. Having a locker, bringing the right kit and equipment for each lesson, navigating their way around a huge alien landscape.

We have more than 1,000 students in our school and serve a semi-rural community where some primary schools have fewer than 30 children in total. It is an immense change for these youngsters, and they love it.

“Do you know where you are going?” I ask. “Yes, sir,” comes the proud response as they confidently head off with a backpack capable of supporting an assault on the Eiger on their backs.

The only child to have got lost by week two was the unfortunate boy who asked me where his history lesson was. I directed him very clearly to the history block on the far side of school and off he went. Ten minutes later he was brought back to the geography block, where I had originally found him, as his history lesson was being taught in there. He got his 10,000 steps in that day and I learned to always ask for the room number being sought, not just the lesson!

By week three they are old hands at this secondary school lark. They know what they like for dinner, the quickest way to get to maths, where lost property is kept and who to go to when you need first aid.


This metamorphosis happens every year and it really is like watching a butterfly emerge. The children show incredible courage, determination and resilience in those first few weeks and all the transition work that their primary schools and our staff do pays dividends.

I often think that we need to do more work on the parents as they are the ones tearful on day one, especially if their little one scampers off into the hall without a backward glance. 

That awe and wonder that the children bring in is incredibly precious and we do everything that we can to encourage and maintain it for as long as we can.

Inevitably, as adolescence continues and hormones become more obvious, their focus and priorities change but imagine how fantastic it would be if we could keep that curiosity and diligence through to Year 11, Year 13 and on into adulthood.

If we could bottle what Year 7 bring in every year then society as a whole – not just schools – would see huge positive changes. But we would need a lot more geometry sets.

The author is a headteacher in the North West.

Want the last word?

Last Word always welcomes contributions from members. If you’d like to share your humorous observations of school life, email Permjit Mann at leader@ascl.org.uk ASCL offers a modest honorarium.