The headteacher column with Mark Ronan

Headmaster at Pocklington School Mark Ronan.
Headmaster at Pocklington School Mark Ronan.

This summer, as most adults are transitioning from work to holiday mode and back again, many young people are preoccupied with a more significant change of scene ahead.

Whether they’re starting school, moving up to senior school, sixth form, university or the workplace, it can be an unsettling, stressful time.

We prepare pupils to leave from the moment they arrive at Pocklington School.

We prepare pupils to leave from the moment they arrive at Pocklington School.

This is something we work hard to address at Pocklington School. Contradictory as it may seem, we prepare pupils to leave from the moment they arrive. Equally contradictorily, we help them to stand on their own two feet by offering pastoral care and support.

For parents of children going through any transition stage, this is my advice, based on best practice in our school:

1. Let youngsters take the lead

Anyone encouraged to find their own approach will have to stand back, evaluate and apply their own knowledge – an invaluable discipline at any age. Empower them to take that step themselves, with your support.

2. Encourage them

Praise effort and be ready to help them figure out another approach when one fails.

One of the scariest things about trying something new is a fear of failure and you can help alleviate that fear by consistently reassuring them that nothing – from a wrong answer to a missed A Level grade – is the end of the world.

3. Collaborate

Discovering new things together from an early age helps children work in teams. Playing an active part in discussions and inevitable compromises, and respecting others’ opinions, help develop social skills and is great preparation for the future. Be enthusiastic about seeking answers together; a ‘can do’ attitude to negotiating hurdles is the best role model to offer a young person.

4. Gently challenge

Constructive conversation is more effective than criticism. If you think their homework isn’t up to scratch, for example, pick out the parts they’ve done well before suggesting they develop or revisit certain areas. Having a calm debate exerts young people’s powers of persuasion and resilience. It also encourages self-reflection, which is useful to any learner.

5. Communicate

The most important advice for any parent, Make the time to listen and acknowledge any concerns. Above all, encourage them to ask for help.

6. Celebrate success

Our teachers recognise and nurture individual strengths, because helping children achieve success in one area boosts their self-esteem, which rubs off on those subjects where they’re less confident.

The best preparation for life we can offer any child is to help them become confident, well-rounded and respectful young people who not only have a solid foundation of knowledge, but can confidently apply it in any situation. By nurturing these key skills, I believe we can equip today’s pupils to approach transition as a positive move throughout their lives.