Lower to upper education: Herts schools discuss the transition

Making the leap

Making the leap - Credit: thinkstock

Many pupils will make what can be a daunting move from lower to upper education this month. We asked top Hertfordshire schools how they prepare for and manage the big step

Abott's Hill

Abott's Hill - Credit: Abott's Hill

Abbot’s Hill School

At Abbot’s Hill, we pride ourselves on our pastoral care which includes the transition into and throughout the school. Children are invited to attend induction days providing them with the opportunity to meet their future classmates and teachers. These provide a fantastic opportunity to get to know each other and help the girls ease into life at Abbot’s Hill. Older girls provide advice and support to those joining the school. Families are also encouraged to become a part of Abbot’s Hill and are welcomed to informal events where they can socialise and meet the staff. These include a family picnic in the summer, a Year 7 family disco and social evenings for parents. The transition programme at Abbot’s Hill lasts around 10 months. The early stages include staff visiting girls at their current school. This also includes the entrance examination process and runs throughout her first few months at the school. How well she has settled in at the school and her progress will be closely reviewed during this time.

Established: 1912. Pupils: 480. Age: Girls day school 4-16, co-ed day nursery and pre-school from six months. Boarding/Day: Day. Boys/Girls: Co-ed nursery and pre-school, girls from 4

Bunkers Lane, Hemel Hempstead HP3 8RP. abbotshill.herts.sch.uk

Duncombe School

Duncombe School - Credit: Duncombe School

Duncombe School

From the age of nine, Duncombe children experience specialist teaching for most subjects. They are encouraged to take responsibility for their work and are expected to arrive on time at the right location with the appropriate equipment, giving an excellent preparation for secondary school. We help build independence and confidence with the Year 6 Enrichment Programme ranging from First Aid training to a financial capability day. The headmaster meets with each pupil to discuss their senior school options, they gain interview skills and each receives a personalised reference. For parents, Duncombe hosts a Senior School Fair, inviting leading independent secondary schools and an opportunity to meet with the head or the deputy. Duncombe prepares pupils for entrance examinations with outstanding outcomes. This year our pupils have been offered 13 scholarships (academic, sport, music, dance, art) to the very best local independent secondary schools with all of our leavers offered a place at their first choice school. With a host of opportunities for personal growth and leadership, Duncombe provides an ideal bridge between class-taught education and a senior school experience.

Established: 1939. Ages: 2-11. Boarding/Day: Day. Girls/Boys: Co-ed

4 Warren Park Road, Hertford SG14 3JA. duncombe-school.co.uk

Habs Boys

Habs Boys - Credit: Adam Scott

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The Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School

The pastoral programme at The Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School starts supporting incoming parents and pupils long before that first day in September.

Parents are able to meet their son’s future teachers and housemasters at a New Parents Evening in June where they are officially welcomed into the Habs family. Most incoming boys receive a visit from a housemaster or member of staff during their primary school’s summer term. This is an opportunity for the boys to start developing these important relationships, ask questions and discuss any concerns.

For some, they will be the only boy transitioning to Habs from their current primary school. We invite all boys in this position to a special afternoon, where they have an opportunity to meet each other, housemasters and the Head of Junior School.

Finally, all boys are brought together for an induction day in September before term officially starts. They meet each other as a cohort for the first time, start learning each other’s names, are shown where everything is, and, together, take the next steps on their journey.

Lockers Park

Lockers Park - Credit: Lockers Park

Established: 1690. Pupils: 1,429. Ages: 5-18. Boarding/Day: Day. Girls/Boys: Boys

Butterfly Lane, Elstree, Hertfordshire WD6 3AF. habsboys.org.uk

Lockers Park

Lockers Park Preparatory School is a day and boarding school for boys aged seven to 13 with a new co-educational pre-prep for ages four to seven. A school of ambition and excellence, Lockers Park prides itself on preparing boys for the country’s top independent and public senior schools. Our boys also progress on to a wide range of other schools including some of the area’s excellent grammar schools. ‘Everything about the school is focused on bringing out the best in boys,’ says the Good Schools Guide. At Lockers Park, our guiding principle is to ensure the boys are equipped to move on to the next step of their educational journey with the confidence to succeed. All of our current Year 8 pupils passed Common Entrance, moving on to their first choice of senior schools, several with scholarships. The Year 6-8 Senior School Preparation Programme involves exam and interview practice, visits from senior school players and scholarship coaching alongside tailored advice from senior staff; all ensuring a seamless progression to the boys’ chosen schools. Our next open morning is Saturday October 15, 10.30am-12.30pm.

Princess Helena

Princess Helena - Credit: Princess Helena

Established: 1874. Pupils: 160. Age: 4-13. Boarding/Day: Both. Boys/Girls: Co-ed pre-prep; boys prep

Lockers Park Lane, Hemel Hempstead HP1 1TL. lockerspark.herts.sch.uk

Princess Helena College

Choosing a school for your daughter is an important decision and a milestone in every child and their parents’ lives. Not only are they going from being the oldest to the youngest in school, they have to find their feet among new surroundings, teachers and friends. When girls arrive at Princess Helena College they are understandably nervous, their ‘Godmother’, a Year 8 pupil, offers support as a peer mentor and friend. Girls also have the opportunity to use our Guardian Angels system, giving them a confidant in one of our older girls. The PHC Houses are families. The house ‘Ice-Breaker’ welcomes girls and allows them to get to know other years in others in a fun, safe and creative environment. By the second term, school seems anything but daunting and we allocate each girl a staff mentor. Throughout PHC life, this mentor is responsible for the girl’s overall welfare; guiding them on academic and pastoral issues. As a small school, from the moment girls arrive, we focus on getting to know each individual. This, combined with our strong culture of encouragement, compassion and courage, make it easier for girls to adapt to the challenges of a new school.

Queenswood School

Queenswood School - Credit: Queenswood School

Established: 1820. Pupils: 200. Age: 11-18. Boarding/Day: Both. Boys/Girls: Girls

School Lane, Preston nr Hitchin SG4 7RT. princesshelenacollege.co.uk


At Queenswood, we believe that the transition to senior school is a wonderfully exciting opportunity. Of course it’s a huge step – if anything, parents are more likely to be unsettled than their children – but we do everything we can to smooth the process. We want girls and their families to feel they are already valued members of our community by the time they join us in September. In the summer term, our Head of Lower School visits every new student at her current school, and all new Queenswood families join us for a morning of games and bonding activities in June. Our priority during the first few days is to make girls feel welcome and secure, to familiarise them both with fellow students and with their surroundings. With over 90 co-curricular clubs and activities on offer, and a wealth of new subjects in the timetable, it’s vital that we help girls with organisation when they arrive. Our ultimate aim is to enable them to become courageous and resilient students with an enthusiasm for independent learning.

St Albans

St Albans - Credit: St Albans

Established: 1894. Pupils: 420. Age: 11-18. Boarding/Day: Both. Girls/Boys: Girls

Shepherd’s Way, Brookmans Park, Hatfield AL9 6NS. queenswood.org

St Albans School

At St Albans School, we recognise how daunting it can be for some pupils to take the big step in Year 7 to a new school. Leaving an environment that has been familiar for many years, along with established groups of friends can be challenging as well as exciting. The school’s programme for new joiners provides opportunities for new pupils to come and experience the school and to meet with other new classmates ahead of the start of term, so that their first day is as enjoyable and worry-free as possible. By the time a new pupil joins the school they will have already experienced several visits, including: a school open morning, games session and interaction with other pupils, a practical lesson, an induction morning designed to give pupils greater insight about life at the school, matriculation day and a taster activities day. By providing a strong level of support, empathy and communication, new pupils are able to focus on their evolving academic life, the new opportunities available to them and building lasting friendships.

St Columba's

St Columba's - Credit: St Columba's

Established: 948. Pupils: 850. Age: 11-18. Boarding/Day: Day. Boys/Girls: Boys: 11-16; co-ed sixth form

Abbey Gateway, St Albans AL3 4HB. st-albans.herts.sch.uk

St Columba’s College

The college wants to ensure that transition from Year 6/primary school is as smooth as possible. In the summer term of Year 6, all boys and parents are invited into school for orientation, fun activities and information, so that, by September, they already feel that they belong to St Columba’s. The boys transferring over from the Prep School will also have had four visits to different departments during Year 5 (Prep 5) and Year 6 (Prep 6). Prior to the beginning of the year in September, any boy can participate in the sports training programme to become acquainted with his peers. Boys will also participate in a retreat within the first few weeks of Form 1, which consolidates those new friendships. The year concludes with a four-day summer camp in Devon. The college has an 11-plus coordinator, who has oversight of the transition of boys during their first year to help them with the process of settling in. A welfare officer also eases transition by being a presence throughout the year. All boys in Form 1 are allocated a Lower Sixth house buddy, who meets with them on a regular basis. This relationship is continued until the end of Form 2. A 13-plus coordinator assists with the transition of entrants to Form 3.

St Francis' College

St Francis' College - Credit: St Francis' College

Established: 1955. Pupils: 865. Age: 4-18. Boarding/Day: Day. Boys/Girls: Boys

King Harry Lane, St Albans AL3 4AW. stcolumbascollege.org

St Francis’ College

St Francis’ understands the concerns families may have as their daughters move to senior school. We address these by inviting the girls to experience the college on several occasions and by inviting parents to tour the college and meet the staff. Girls in our own Year 5 have specialist lessons in the senior school and in May they join external students for a taster day spent solving a murder mystery in science, playing games and performing in a concert for parents in our chapel. Year 6 girls are invited to spend a full day experiencing a variety of academic lessons where they are able to make friends, meet teachers and become accustomed to the surroundings and to see the opportunities the college has to offer. This is followed by examinations in January and an induction day in June which is a fun, relaxed day with the time to build friendships and for parents to make new friends too. All new girls are visited at their current school by a teacher and they also have a ‘Buddy’, a current girl who will help them enjoy their first days as a senior.

St George's

St George's - Credit: St George's

Established: 1933. Pupils: 410. Age: 3–18 years. Boarding/Day: Both. Boys/Girls: Girls

Broadway, Letchworth SG6 3PJ. st-francis.herts.sch.uk

St George’s School

The move from primary school to secondary school is a move taken seriously at St George’s. Key members of staff go out to local primary schools during June and meet individuals soon to start their careers at St George’s. In July we hold an induction day and those who will board are invited to a sleep over in their future boarding house. When the new academic year arrives, new boarders arrive days in advance and all new Year 7 students are assigned a Sixth Form student as their mentor. There is a real commitment to getting to know one another and by this we mean staff getting to know their new pupils and pupils getting to know their peers. We don’t underestimate what an anxious time it can be for parents too. With this in mind, parents’ induction takes place during the evening that follows induction day and new parents are given the opportunity to get to know one another socially and to attend a parent visit in December. A questionnaire completed by students at the end of their first term at St George’s helps us to understand how students found the settling in process and, just as importantly, enables us to continually review the induction programme that we deliver.

St Martha's

St Martha's - Credit: St Martha's

Established: 1907. Pupils: 1,350. Age: 11-18. Boarding/Day: Both. Girls/Boys: Both

Sun Lane, Harpenden AL5 4TD. stgeorges.herts.sch.uk

St Martha’s School

I still remember three pieces of advice I was given by my headmaster as I made the transition from primary to secondary school (writes headmaster Matthew Burke). Take your time to settle in, make the most of the opportunities on offer, and keep in touch with us. You will be leaving primary school with such strong friendships and high levels of confidence that you may forget that these things take time. Happiness and working in partnership are key factors in a successful transition and it is important that schools and parents embrace new opportunities – talk to new people, make new friends and engage in new activities by joining sports clubs or the choir. Pupils should tell themselves that this will all feel familiar quickly. Listen carefully, be prepared to ask questions and think before you speak. Remember that this can be a time of mixed emotions but always do your best to smile as we look friendlier and it is infectious. Starting a new school gives you a fresh start; you can be who you want to be.

Westbrook Hay

Westbrook Hay - Credit: Westbrook Hay

Established: 1903. Pupils: 198. Age: 11-18. Boarding/Day: Day. Girls/Boys: Girls

Camlet Way, Hadley Wood En4 0NJ. st-marthas.co.uk

Westbrook Hay

At Westbrook Hay we have always believed that the transfer from Lower to Upper School is best done at 11 for girls and 13 for boys. This takes into consideration the differing rates of maturity and means all children are ready for a very important stage in their life – joining their senior school. As we serve both the independent and state sectors, there will be some boys who take the 11+ to Grammar Schools, but the majority of our pupils take selective entrance tests, for which they are prepared and hence the curriculum we employ is designed with these needs in mind. It gives pupils and parents clearly-definable targets and enables them to make the right decisions for their children. Girls and boys have the opportunity to become prefects in their final year with us, investing in them the responsibility and self-assurance that provides a fitting culmination to their time with us. They leave us as happy, confident and successful individuals, who are ready to take up the challenge of senior school.

Established: 1892. Pupils: 300. Ages: 3-13. Boarding/Day: Both. Girls/Boys: Both

London Rd, Hemel Hempstead HP1 2RF. westbrookhay.co.uk

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