A new student joining your school or class brings with it the exciting opportunity for them to grow and help shape your school, students, and community! However, starting out at a new school can be daunting for any young person, especially if this happens separately from a traditional school transition, like the one from primary to secondary school. It’s vital to support new students during this time so they can thrive in their new environment. For many new students, they may feel worried that joining a new school could lead to them being targeted with bullying behaviour. So, it’s important to make them aware of all the support you have in place. Here’s some of our top tips for how you can best do this as an educator:
Prepare for your new student’s arrival:
Make them feel welcome by ensuring they have the right equipment and facilities available to them. You, or your current students, could create a welcome pack for them. This could include stationary, workbooks and a map of your school so they have everything they need for their first day. You could also allocate a space for them in your school’s cloakrooms or a locker for them to store their stuff in between lessons. Doing this before the student arrives at your school should help them feel a sense of belonging.
Let your students know that a new pupil will be joining your class and encourage them to do something creative to help welcome that student. They could design a poster or presentation about themselves and your school ethos! It's also important to understand the circumstances behind the new student’s transition. You might be welcoming a new student who faced difficulties at a previous school, someone who has experienced unsettling life experiences, or perhaps a student who has moved from a different area or country. By having some prior knowledge of the circumstances, you can effectively prepare specific support networks for them.
Find opportunities to get to know and welcome your new student:
Why not spend some time in form or class welcoming and learning more about your new student? This could be by encouraging them to share an interesting fact or something they’re passionate about. You could also do this by running whole class team building activities or games, so all students get the opportunity to share and engage. A new student may feel apprehensive or overwhelmed by having the spotlight on them, so involving all students in these activities may help to break the ice!
Make time to find out about them yourself so that you can signpost them to opportunities that interest them. You could also use this time to gain a better understanding of how that young person engages best in class. From this you can tailor lessons and resources to accommodate their needs.
Make them aware of the support they have available to them:
You could assign your new student a buddy or peer to help welcome them into the school.This ensures they have someone to answer questions and help integrate them with other students.
Make sure you clearly address who your new student can go to if they want to speak to someone or need some support – whether that be yourself, another member of staff, or a support staff member. Clarify also when and where they can do this.
If you have a team of Anti-Bullying Ambassadors at your school, make sure your new pupil is aware of who that team is, what being an Ambassador means and how they can also provide them with support if they need it. You could encourage your Ambassadors to introduce themselves to the new student.
Tell your new student about any safe spaces, buddy benches, reporting tools you use, or any other support services you have in your school. Also mention wellbeing support and who the school safeguarding staff are.
During the new pupil’s transition, they may need lots of support and care to help them feel happy and safe in your school. By providing them with different methods and avenues to access this support, it helps ensure the pupil’s different needs are met.
Encourage them to get involved with your school community:
Once you’ve gotten to know your new student a little better, you could try and find opportunities for them to get involved in your school community and events. Perhaps invite them to join a school club based on their interests or let them know about school events they could come to, such as school fairs.
You could also put them forward for further opportunities within school if they would like, such as school council or a peer mentor. Giving them the opportunity to take on a leadership role or join a club should foster a sense of being an important part of your school’s community.
Provide continued support and opportunity for them to integrate with peers:
You could schedule regular 121’s, or catch them before or after class informally, to see how they’re feeling about school and if they need any further support.
It’s also important to continue to find opportunities for team building activities and space to socialise with other peers while they’re still settling in. Building this into form or class time can encourage different relationships and friendships to form and grow.
Review your policies, resources, and teaching style to meet your students’ needs:
It’s key to make sure that education is presented in a way that is accessible for all students. If a new student has joined your class, speak to them about their needs and how you can support these. This could be by adjusting online safety posters or your anti-bullying policy into the new student’s first language. This could be by providing them with worksheets that are in a more accessible format, such as large print or writing with supported visuals. This could be by talking through a behaviour or wellbeing strategy tailored to their needs. Each student is unique, and it’s integral to their sense of belonging and worth that their individual needs are recognised and supported, especially for students who are in a new school environment.
There are many organisations that offer further advice and support for young people on a variety of different topics.
https://www.youngminds.org.uk/professional/resources/supporting-school-transitions/ - Young Minds have resources for young people and staff on supporting someone through a school transition.
https://www.kidscape.org.uk/resources-and-campaigns/back-to-school/ - Kidscape have resources and activities focused on restoring confidence for young people who are going back to school. They also have advice and resources for staff, parents and carers.
https://www.place2be.org.uk/our-services/services-for-schools/mental-health-resources-for-schools/ - Place2Be have resources for young people and staff to encourage a positive mental health and wellbeing in school.
Remember if a young person you know needs some advice or support they can contact The Diana Award Advice Messenger service, which provides *free, 24/7 support across the UK. If you need advice, or just someone to talk to, you can text DA to 85258. Trained volunteers will listen to how you're feeling and help you find the next step towards feeling better.
*Texts are free from EE, O2, Vodafone, 3, Virgin Mobile, BT Mobile, GiffGaff, Tesco Mobile andTelecom Plus.