We are writing to follow up on our November workshop ‘Looking Forward at Simon Balle’ to update you on some developments and keep you informed.
Year 7 admissions and exclusive open day at Simon Balle
Firstly, we would like to reassure you all that every Larch student is guaranteed a place in Year 7 at Simon Balle All-through School. There is no need to make an application at any point (to Hertfordshire or to Simon Balle) as your child’s place will automatically be transferred to the secondary phase. We hope that you agree that this is a fantastic position to be in, as we know that secondary transfer can cause a lot of worry – we are so pleased to already have a home-school relationship with each and every family so we can support each child’s transition in a personalised way.
That said, we are very keen to ensure that you as parents, and your children, are fully informed about the opportunities in Year 7 and your child’s journey (both wellbeing and academic) ahead. As you may know, an open day for admissions to secondary schools is typically held in the early part of the autumn term. For our Larch Simon Balle families, we would like to invite you to an exclusive open day to be held in September 2021. Parents will have the opportunity to see the secondary site, to speak with Mrs Saunders (Headteacher), Mrs Owen (Assistant Headteacher with a focus on Year 6 and 7 transition) and other key staff. Children can look forward to a morning of immersion which will help them begin to experience how Year 7 at Simon Balle will be. Specific dates to follow later this year, with the cohort divided into smaller groups to ensure a personalised experience for all. A google form will also be circulated to you in the summer term, so that we can understand more about your intentions, and any particular questions you have that you would like us to explain in the next stages of the transition process.
Simon Balle All-through School is a ‘One Person, One Device’ school, with every student from Year 7 upwards currently using a school-purchased device during lessons and for home learning. This scheme has been highly successful in recent years in the secondary phase in ensuring excellent access to learning and the best possible use of technology to support this. Indeed it has been absolutely essential during periods of remote learning over the last year to ensure that every child can continue to access the highest quality of teaching and learning, albeit remotely.
Following on from our workshop in November, we would like to announce that we will be introducing this scheme to Year 6 in September 2021! It is a very exciting prospect that all children in our first Year 6 cohort will be able to benefit from G-Suite resources (Google Classroom, School Gmail (our email system) and Google Drive plus many other opportunities with the use of Chromebooks across lessons/subjects and for home learning. It will prepare children incredibly well for the secondary phase across areas of independence, E-safety, responsibility and specific computing skills.
We have now sourced a new, cost-effective wholesale and insured Acer Chromebook that will be used by all Year 6 and Year 7 students from September 2021. Final costings are currently being calculated but the model will be approximately £340 outright cost. This includes a Google licence, a three-year warranty and a three-year insurance package. We work alongside a company called Edde who run a finance scheme for each device over 36, 24 and 12 months. We expect the 36-month package to cost approximately £10 a month. There will be a reduced cost available for those who qualify for Pupil Premium funding.
A separate letter will be sent out before Easter with more information about the device, confirming the breakdown of costs and finance options. As we said when we met in November, the use of the chrome book will, of course, be balanced with continued handwritten learning – both so important in Year 6.
We have already started the process of recruiting our Sports Ambassadors, with applications for other leadership roles being released gradually over the coming months. Music Ambassadors, continued Larch Librarians, Eco Leaders and Computing Champions all to follow. The last role we will be advertising is for Larch Head Boy and Girl and their deputies. We know this will be a popular role and be desired by many students, so we will ensure a fair and proper process takes place, with the Year 13 Head Boy and Girl being involved in leading this. For all leadership roles, we will be asking the children to explain to us how they show our school values consistently in school, outside of school and virtually, including during remote learning. We are very excited about this process in the coming months and are looking forward to awarding badges and introducing responsibilities.
Lunchtimes and use of the whole all-through site
We have lots of plans in place to support the children’s transition into Year 7 and to ensure that they fully benefit now from all the opportunities of being a student in the all-through school. You will know, of course, that this has already begun, with specialist teaching (from Reception!), including foreign language teaching, music and sporting activities and so many examples of cross-phase activities.
From September 2021, the Year 6 children will eat their lunch in the secondary dining room. Hot lunch options will be available as of now, and children will be excited that our catering company (Accent) will be providing more grown-up options for them (more specific detail to follow). As in Year 5, it will be possible too to have a packed lunch from home. A Year 6 adult or member of the leadership team will look after the children, and, in this way, they will be fully supervised and supported as Year 6 children should be, yet also able to experience more of the all-through site and to begin to mix with Year 7.
As well as lunchtimes, we are planning opportunities for the Year 6 children to benefit from using the main library, the music block and the science laboratories too (almost certainly amongst other examples!)
Your children’s safety and their wellbeing is always our priority. Therefore all of the above exciting activities have been planned with careful attention to how we can support children’s developing sense of responsibility and independence. We will be putting in place a transition programme for the Year 6 students that will importantly include a ‘passport’. In this ‘passport’, they will be trained in ‘transition steps’ and will be asked to evidence their use of school values when using the whole all-through site. For example, they will travel from the Larch to the music block (signing in and out of each) in a particular way, with a training programme to eventually lead to independence. Opportunities will increase throughout Year 6, as each individual child demonstrates their readiness through completion of their passport.
We are very proud of our bespoke all-through curriculum, from Reception to Year 13, at Simon Balle All-through school. Whilst a curriculum is always ‘living’ and always adapted, it is exciting indeed to know that the children’s learning will progress seamlessly from Year 5 to Year 6 and then again to Year 7. All of our curriculum overviews are published on our website and all include full details for Year 6 in 2021. You can read more detail on the website, but it is an ambitious and broad curriculum, with no apology made for the importance given to every subject. All children will be prepared for their SATs, of course, but this is just a part of their learning journey and experience. Specialist teachers will continue to teach music and PE, with more detail to follow. The children will continue to study French from Year 5, but we will also commit to offering extra-curricular Spanish (at no charge) so that children can be prepared for Year 7, in which they will study both languages. We are so excited about the next stage of finalising our Year 6 curriculum – including our Literary Canon, our plans for an ambitious project beyond SATs and a residential trip.
During the summer term of Year 5, every student will be given access to Accelerated Reader (AR). This is a programme used by every student in Year 7 at Simon Balle All-through school. AR is a computer program that helps us manage and monitor children’s independent reading practice. Your child will choose books at his/her own level and read it at his/her own pace. When finished, each child takes a short quiz on a device – passing the quiz is an indication that your child has understood what has been read. It has so many benefits: children can earn house points and certificates to support motivation (as well as, of course, their intrinsic motivation formed through the love of reading); it will support comprehension skills pitched at exactly the right level for the individual child and you, as parents, will be able to log in to see their progress. There is a world of literature out there and preparing children for this is one of the most important things we can do at Simon Balle in the Larch; Mrs Syme will continue to be there to inspire and support!
Extra curricular activities
As you know, we are deeply committed to providing all of our students with extra-curricular opportunities in which they can thrive, develop specific skills and enjoy themselves with all the benefits of social interaction. Whilst Covid-19 has curtailed our current offer, Year 6 children can look forward to the following:
- Opportunities within sports teams (boys and girls) to represent Simon Balle through participating in matches, fixtures, competitions and events. Team training for football and netball will continue to be fully inclusive and free of charge. Miss Riddle and Mr Brennan (Head of Department for PE) are currently working on our all-through charter to ensure that the Simon Balle values are at the forefront of every aspect of sport.
- Opportunities as musicians – whether strings, wind, brass or singing. Choirs will continue, 1:1 music lessons will continue, and ensembles and concerts will be truly all-through, with opportunities to play with children in the secondary phase whenever an individual student is ready.
- A breadth of opportunities, consistent with that being currently offered at Explorers. Parental surveys tell us how important this is and we are delighted that our staff can provide such a range of activities. We are planning for some activities to be designed so that Year 6 and 7 can join together – another way to support transition. More to follow!
Other opportunities to develop independence
Before Christmas we asked for parents to let us know if you wanted to give your child permission to walk independently to, or from school on specific days. This is just a reminder that when school reopens fully, we will be using previous permissions given by parents – so please do let us know if you would like this to be updated or amended.
Children having their own pencil case has been very helpful in developing their responsibility for resources that are used every daily. These will increase in Year 6 – for example, each child having their own protractor for use in mathematics.
We do apologise for a long letter and lots of information! That said, we are very keen indeed to ensure that Year 5 to Year 6, and Year 6 to Year 7 are times of exciting growth and development for your children and for you as parents. We know that we will rely on our continued and important partnership between home and school, and therefore we wish to fully involve you in every stage. Please do not hesitate to email us with any immediate questions, but equally please be reassured that we will write again with specific plans related to the headings above.