Virtual Transition 2010

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					Virtual Transition 2010
Final Evaluation

93% of Y6 pupils reported that they had found out
something new about their secondary school, 71%
reported making new friends and 92% reported they felt
better about moving to their new school

Ruth Garner,
Project Coordinator
                                         Virtual Transition 2010

Executive Summary

The Virtual Transition programme opened its doors to year-6 pupils transferring to 37 participating
secondary schools in June 2010. In preparation for this programme awareness raising events took
place for secondary and primary school staff, over 385 pupils from KS4 were trained as peer mentors
and the online activities had been reviewed and amended.           The focus of the programme was to
reduce the year-7 dip in attainment through helping year-6 (Y6) pupils to start making new social
networks with others going to their new school and providing a safe environment where year-6
pupils could ask questions about the school and get answers from those who truly know what the
school is like – other key stage 3 pupils.

This programme has been developing since 2002, and this year more secondary schools and pupils
participated than ever before. The 37 secondary schools welcomed 2,480 Y6 pupils to the site to
talk to over 385 trained peer mentors, and each other. This is 40% of all eligible Y6 pupils, with some
schools engaging up to 82% of all Y6 entrants. Models of engagement have been explored and one
of the success factors has been identified as individual invitations to Y6 pupils from the secondary

Barriers still remained in 2010 to engaging primary schools because not all secondary schools
participated. Primary schools report that it is difficult to organise an activity where not all Y6 pupils
have equal opportunities to join in because their new schools were not participating. This has had a
significant effect on some participating secondary schools, as demonstrated by the figures for active
engagement of Y6 pupils as low as 9 to 19%. The majority of participating secondary schools relied
on primary teachers inducting their Y6 pupils into the programme and if they did not want to
support the programme the induction did not take place and pupils were not aware of this

A significant number of primary schools were actively engaged within the programme although only
110 primary schools formally pledged support. A good communication system was set up with a
number of returning, and new, primary school staff and this helped in moderating the programme
and behaviour. A number of primary schools who did not formally pledge support did actively induct

Ruth Garner | October 2010
                                        Virtual Transition 2010

Y6 pupils onto the system, and many primary schools were represented by Y6 pupils who had been
sent joining instructions by their new school.

During the 3-week online programme we experienced a                  ‘ Dear Ruth thank u vry much. I
                                                                     loved the website so much. And
significant amount of traffic during school hours, in the
                                                                     well I've made a really cool friend
evenings and at weekends with some very enthusiastic                 who's probably going 2 end up in
pupils visiting daily, including weekends.        Through            my form cuz her surname ends with
                                                                     b and mine f, all because you set
evaluation 93% of Y6 pupils reported that they had
                                                                     the lonely activity. Once again
found out something new about their secondary school,                thank u vry very very much’
71% reported making new friends and 92% reported                              Y6 pupil – Bordesley Green
they felt better about moving to their new school.                                               Primary

The report contains recommendations for 2011. The biggest challenge identified, however, is how
to engage all secondary schools so that this programme becomes an entitlement for all Y6 pupils. In
the event that this target is not achievable within the time frame for 2011 delivery, models of good
practice need to be shared so that secondary schools have more opportunities to engage Y6 pupils
directly, thus requiring less reliance on primary schools for induction and access. We recommend
the formation of a focus group made up of trainers, and staff from secondary and primary schools to
identify ways of marketing and developing this programme further.      In addition, opportunities to
market this programme outside the Local Authority, as a Transition Package, needs to be given

Ruth Garner | October 2010
                               Virtual Transition 2010


       1: Introduction                                     Page 5

       2: Methodology                                      Page 8

       3: 2009 Recommendations Did they make a difference? Page 9

       4: Results

           4.1: Summary                                    Page 15

           4.2: Primary staff and pupils reported?         Page 16

           4.3: Secondary staff and Mentors reported?      Page 19

       5: Discussion                                       Page 22

       6: Recommendations                                  Page 25

       7: Acknowledgements                                 Page 26

       8: Participating Secondary Schools                  Page 27

       9: Peer Mentor quotes                               Page 28

Ruth Garner | October 2010
                             Virtual Transition 2010

Ruth Garner | October 2010
                                       Virtual Transition 2010

1: Introduction:

1.1:    Over the past 8 years the Virtual Transition programme has developed and grown, taking
account of evaluations and new technologies to make it more effective and engaging for pupils and
schools. The focus of the programme was to reduce the year-7 (Y7) dip in attainment through
helping year-6 (Y6) pupils to start making new social networks with others going to their new school
and providing a safe environment where Y6 pupils could ask questions about the school and get
answers from those who truly know what the school is like – other key stage 3 pupils.

1.2:    Virtual Transition 2010 was late in starting but gained significant momentum to make it an
exciting and effective programme. We have continued to develop the environment after listening to
staff and pupils in 2009, and added some new features such as a site-wide music room and a ‘Shout
Box’ in each school area encouraging quick bite-sized comments from everyone. We have made the
site more colourful, noisy and added movement where possible as this was a significant theme
throughout the pupil comments last year. E-Safety advice and RSS feeds remained on the site and
Peer Mentors were given responsibility for opening and closing real-time chats.

1.3:    For this programme a number of trainers were recruited from City Learning Centres, Central
Services and Secondary Schools. This year we had a team of 8 trainers with 50% of these working
within secondary schools and playing a part in embedding the transition programme. Trainers were
a mix of old and new and played a significant part in training peer mentors and supporting school
staff during the main programme. The trainers worked a lot of the time outside traditional working
hours when Y6 and peer mentors were online. With an average of four schools per trainer this was a
time consuming role particularly during key periods and it would be advisable to increase the size of
the team during 2011 to keep the ratio down to 1 trainer to 3 schools maximum.

1.4:    We have continued to encourage a growing Community of Practice where we can learn
from each other and share highlights or challenges. Staff rooms were made available for both
secondary and primary school staff and provided places where they could get used to the system,
download information and ask questions.

1.5:    Secondary schools were recruited through personal invitation (participants of 2009 Virtual
Transition programme) eBriefings and invitations to awareness raising sessions. Each secondary

Ruth Garner | October 2010
                                       Virtual Transition 2010

school who registered interest was invited to send the coordinator and one other member of staff to
face-to-face training sessions on Moodle, the Virtual Learning Environment, which were organised at
several City Learning Centres across the City. 37 secondary schools participated this year and 18
schools sent representatives for training. Some schools did not need to attend training as they
gained the relevant experience over the past years and some schools could not send staff because of
problems created by the ash cloud at the beginning of the summer term. Where new schools came
online, they were disadvantaged if they did not attend training and this was evidenced through poor
engagement by staff, mentors and Y6 pupils within their virtual transition programme. Secondary
schools were invited to select 8 mentors to work on the programme (from key stage 3, but Y8 were
recommended). One school did not submit any mentors at all and trainers / staff from the school
monitored and engaged with the 106 Y6 pupils who visited the site. While there were great benefits
from meeting other Y6 pupils and extending their social networks in readiness for the new school
they were disadvantaged by not being able to get their questions answered by peer mentors.

1.6:    Each secondary school was provided with a virtual classroom where mentor / staff training
took place as well as the virtual transition programme for Y6. All peer mentor activities were
‘hidden’ before Y6 pupils came online. All rooms were populated with activities from a master
classroom at the start of the programme. There were opportunities for schools to customise their
virtual classrooms and add their own resources and links.

1.7:    To assist school staff to take control of their virtual classroom before Y6 pupils came online
they were provided with a handbook that identified exactly when to ‘open and close’ activities and
sessions etc.

1.8;    In the background, administrative tasks included manipulating admission data to register
staff and pupils, preparing eBriefings, awareness raising sessions, and communication with primary
schools who were sending pupils to participating secondary schools.     Feeder schools, in and out of
Birmingham, were invited to register their interest in participating through an online registration
process. This also gave schools access to the site to view what their pupils were doing when the
programme went online. Primary schools were asked to induct their Y6 pupils through using a pre-
prepared PowerPoint and being given the means to work out the pupil’s username and password.

1.9:    Some secondary schools contacted pupils direct giving them information and a username
and password. This was very successful and a good example was Handsworth Grammar School who

Ruth Garner | October 2010
                                         Virtual Transition 2010

managed to engage 82% of their incoming pupils. Other approaches included transition staff going
into feeder schools with usernames and passwords and talking to parents about this opportunity.
An example of this approach was Bishop Challoner Catholic College & Sixth Form Centre who, after a
slow start, managed to engaged 71% of their incoming pupils. Case studies will be produced for
marketing the Virtual Transition 2011.

1.10:   Induction for Primary Schools took place the week beginning 7th June 2010 and the
programme commenced 14th June and ran until Birmingham schools induction day at the beginning
of July. Some schools elected to keep the virtual classrooms open to the end of term.

1.11:   The programme has been evaluated so that we can learn from people experiences.

    ‘I think after the success of this year next year will be even
    bigger and better.’
                                       Secondary School Respondent

                                                                   ‘I think it was all great, so I didn’t
                                                                   not like anything.’
                                                                                           Y6 Respondent

‘I think that it’s an amazing
experience and as well it’s a really
valid part of the transition for year
7s because you’re helping them                           ‘Would be even better if all secondary
move up and just reassuring any
                                                         schools were involved as was
little worries they have. It’s really
                                                         demotivating for those pupils who's
worthwhile and as well you learn
a lot and as well as just enhancing                      school were not part of the
your mentoring skills it helps to                        programme.’
enhance your people and                                                      Primary Teacher.
communication skills to :)’
           Peer Mentor Respondent

Ruth Garner | October 2010
                                      Virtual Transition 2010

2: Methodology

2.1:    Recommendations from last year’s programme have been reviewed and discussed in order
to identify new learning and approaches that represent good practice.

2.2:    The evaluation has drawn on the same types of data as the 2009 evaluation and similarities
and differences have been analysed. The report highlights the similarities and differences rather
than report on copious data from 2010 which may be repetitive.

2.1:    Data was drawn from the evaluation forms which were made live at the end of the
programme, in each virtual classroom. Mentors and Y6 pupils were asked to fill in the relevant
evaluation forms. A separate online evaluation form was created for secondary staff and primary
staff and they were invited to participate at the end of the programme. The evaluation forms
remained open until the end of the term. This data has been collated, analysed and reported on in
this report.

2.3:    The analysis of data has led to the formulation of recommendations for Virtual Transition

Ruth Garner | October 2010
                                      Virtual Transition 2010

3: 2009 Recommendations. Did they make a difference?

3.1:   Recommendation 1:       Review the activities, identifying the ones that pupils engaged in
       and replacing the ones that were problematic. Explore multimedia activities and ways of
       bringing more music and colour into the site.

       a. Activities were reviewed and some activities were deleted from the system as these
           were not engaging to pupils in previous years. Some of the discussion forums were
           made more interesting by adding colour and images. A music room was created for all
           Y6 pupils and mentors and this took them to videos on safe sites. Pupils enjoyed this
           resource and would like more choice of music next year.

       b. The changes have been reflected within the evaluations and it was seen that Y6 pupils
           and mentors rarely mentioned colour and sound as missing and there were fewer
           comments about the activities being one of the things they enjoyed doing least.
           However, engagement in structured activities, mostly asynchronous, remains an issue as
           real-time communicating with other Y6 and mentors remains the most attractive activity
           on the site.

3.2:   Recommendation 2:       Provide more training opportunities for secondary staff in the use
       of Moodle so that they feel confident in using this platform. Ensure everyone has a face-
       to-face training session as well as online opportunities to practice using the environment.

           a. 6 workshops were run across the City in the City Learning Centres. This was focused
               on the use of Moodle and aimed to increase confidence in this platform. 18 of the
               37 schools did not send staff on workshops. This was due in part to the difficulties
               arising from the ‘ash cloud’ situation at the beginning of the summer term and in
               part because some schools were currently familiar with Moodle and the
               programme. However, some problems have been identified with schools who were
               not familiar with either Moodle or the Virtual Transition programme. Without this
               training schools will not understand what is required of them and the need for
               active participation at all stages. This needs to be reviewed in 2011 and developed
               as part of the criteria for engagement of secondary schools.

Ruth Garner | October 2010
                                         Virtual Transition 2010

3.3:   Recommendation 3:           Develop a virtual area for Y6 pupils who are transferring to a non-
       participating school. To staff this with a trainer and a small group of experienced mentors.
       This will provide primary schools with the opportunity to engage all Y6 pupils in a virtual
       transition activity.

           a. The Virtual Transition team was
               reduced this year and, therefore,             ‘I felt the programme was
                                                             beneficial, my concern was that
               the     option to      provide   regular
                                                             not all secondary schools
               moderation and support for those              participate ultimately, Virtual
               going          to      non-participating      Transition was only viable for
               secondary schools was not practical.          about 10 children’
                                                                                Primary Teacher
               Given that 39 secondary schools did
               not opt-in to the programme this
               represents a significant number of
               Y6 pupils. To have a very high number of Y6 pupils online not attached to a
               participating secondary school would have created risks that would have been
               difficult to manage without a larger team of trainers and trained / experienced peer

           b. The reason for this recommendation was that some primary schools will not engage
               in the programme unless all their Y6 pupils are able to participate, thus providing
               equal opportunities for all. The option to make this programme an entitlement
               needs to be clearly reviewed for 2011.

                ‘As the whole class weren't participating it was harder
                to get children out of class as if they were all involved it
                would be easier to block lessons for the transition
                                                          Primary Teacher

3.4:   Recommendation 4:           Review the process for engaging primary schools and publish
       models of successful practice.

Ruth Garner | October 2010
                                    Virtual Transition 2010

           a. An invitation to support the programme was sent to all primary schools through
              eBriefing and through personal invitation via the 2009 participating schools list.
              Schools were also invited to a briefing session at the Martineau Centre. Leading up
              to the Virtual Transition programme numerous primary schools were contacted by
              email inviting them to pledge support for the programme because of the number of
              pupils on their roll who were transferring to participating schools. Telephone calls
              were also used to contact schools, particularly over the Birmingham border.

           b. A significant number of primary schools were actively engaged within the
              programme although only 110 primary schools formally pledged support. A number
              of primary schools who did not formally pledge support did actively induct Y6 pupils
              onto the system.

           c. We asked secondary staff to comment on their experience of primary schools
              engagement. The 16 respondents reported a 56% positive response from their
              feeder schools (table 1) although 31% gave negative feedback commenting that the
              feeder schools they contacted were generally disinterested. This was very
              disheartening because of the time and energy invested in setting up the programme.

           d. Those schools who wrote to individual Y6 pupils direct successfully engaged higher
              numbers of Y6 participants. A good example of this is Handsworth Grammar School
              who successfully engaged 82% of their incoming pupils in the programme and
              Bishop Vesey Grammar School who engaged 70%. This system worked well except
              for late admissions who had incorrect usernames because data needed to be
              manipulated before final places were accepted. These pupils came through the
              helpdesk facility and, after cross referencing with primary school and secondary
              school, were assisted in getting online. This is a good model of practice which could
              be adopted by more schools. However, where Y6 pupils do not have home access
              they need primary schools to make devices and internet access available so
              marketing to primary schools and securing their pledges is still essential in some
              communities within Birmingham.

           e. Bishop Challoner Catholic College & Sixth Form Centre adopted a range of
              approaches to engage feeder schools. Some feeder schools pledged their support
              but it was a slow start to the programme. A member of staff went out to all feeder
              schools providing information to Y6 teachers such as usernames and passwords

Ruth Garner | October 2010
                                      Virtual Transition 2010

                making it easy for primary schools to engage at a late date. In addition, they
                provided information at open evenings when meeting with Y6 pupils and their
                parents / carers. This was time intensive but resulted in the engagement of 71% of
                their Y6 pupils. Discussions with Bishop Challoner School resulted in the setting up
                of a parent’s room (partitioned from the main Virtual Transition Site). This was too
                late to pilot in the 2010 programme but there are plans to develop this further in

           f.   It is proposed that we develop these models further ready for the 2011 Virtual
                Transition Programme and share these with the participating Secondary Schools in
                order to help them engage more primaries / Y6 pupils and embed good practice.

           g. Finally, although we experienced very few problems online we were able to act in
                partnership with primary schools to manage behaviour. We found the primary
                schools very responsive and supportive in dealing with these issues and as a result
                behaviour was successfully managed at a local level.

                Table 1. Secondary staff perceptions on primary engagement.

       Some of our feeder schools registered
       voluntarily and we successfully 'encouraged'                        25%
       others to register later

       Some feeder schools didn't know about the
       programme when we visited them but were                             31%
       happy to register on our recommendation

       Few feeder school registered and were generally
       disinterested when we encouraged them

       We informed the Y6s individually by letter, or
       when visiting schools

3.5:   Recommendation 5:        Retain the Peer Mentor common room in future programmes.

           a. The peer mentor common room was available again this year and was used by a
                wide range of mentors from 36 schools (one school did not identify mentors for the

Ruth Garner | October 2010
                                      Virtual Transition 2010

               programme). This remains a popular and valuable resource for the mentors. It was
               moderated this year by a trainer.

3.6:   Recommendation 6:       Engage more trainers from participating schools in 2009 to extend
       and develop the Community Of Practice. This will accommodate an increase in the number
       of participating schools in 2010.

           a. This year (2010) we had a team of 8 trainers with 50% of these working within
               secondary schools and playing a part in embedding the transition programme.
               Trainers were a mix of old and new and played a significant part in training peer
               mentors and supporting school staff during the main programme. The trainers
               worked much of the time outside traditional working hours when Y6 pupils and peer
               mentors were online. With an average of four schools per trainer this was a time
               consuming role, particularly during key periods, and we would recommend an
               increase in the size of the team during 2011 to keep the ratio down to 1 trainer to 3
               schools maximum.

3.7:   Recommendation 7:       Finally, due to the positive reporting by Y6 respondents, we
       recommend that the programme runs again in 2010.

           a. This recommendation was followed and another successful Virtual Transition
               programme took place. The programme ran with a much reduced team. However,
               having systems in place has helped to streamline the processes, having trainers who
               are experienced has reduced the need for training and a growing group of
               experienced school-based staff has helped to test out innovative models of engaging
               Y6 pupils and/or primary schools.

           b. During 2011 we must ensure that good practice models are passed on by school-
               based staff within the awareness raising sessions and in the hands-on training. A
               working group of trainers, school-based staff from participating secondary and
               primary schools would help us to move forward in 2011 in an even more stream-
               lined manner as those who work in school can help to produce case studies, sample
               letters to parents, and explore alternative models of engaging pupils and primary

Ruth Garner | October 2010
                                     Virtual Transition 2010

           c. In addition, other ideas have come forward and schools are requesting add-ons to
              the programme such as parent’s rooms. We would like to further explore and
              develop these ideas.

                                                                      Task 3.1: Lonely

                                                               What do I have to do?
                                                               Can you find someone you don't
                                                               know who is online now and go
                                                               and talk to them. Can you ask

                                                                1. Where were you born?
                                                                2. Which superhero would you
                                                                   like to be?
                                                                3. What’s your favourite lesson
                                                                   at school?

Ruth Garner | October 2010
                                       Virtual Transition 2010

4: Results

4.1: Overview
4.1.a: 37 secondary schools registered to take part in the Virtual Transition Programme and this
was a mix of those with experience of the programme and some new to it.             For these secondary
schools we registered 5904 Y6 pupils prior to the programme commencing (6192 places available).
The Y6 pupils registered were not all correct due to the complexities of the admission procedures
and early access to the data, thus some pupils were registered who refused places and other pupils
were not registered who accepted places late. However, the amendments were manageable
through the Help-desk facility and caused little disruption to pupils successfully getting on-line.

4.1.b: The Y6 pupils were currently based within 396 primary schools (range 1 to 115). 80 schools
(20%) had only 1 Y6 eligible pupil, 130 schools (33%) had between 2 and 9 eligible pupils, 121 (31%)
had between 10 and 29 eligible pupils, and 62 schools (16%) had 30 or more eligible pupils. 104
schools (26%) were over the Birmingham Border and accounted for 282 pupils (5% of places in
participating secondary schools)

4.1.c: Peer Mentors (Mentors) were selected from key stage 4 pupils in the participating secondary
school. One school did not submit any names and ran the programme without mentors, thus
reducing the Y6 pupil’s opportunities to find out more about their new school. 342 mentors were
registered on the system and engaged in the training programme and in talking to Y6 pupils. This
ranged from 0 to 15 mentors per school (schools were invited to register between 8 and 12

4.1d: The evaluation forms were completed by a small proportion of people registered on this
site. These included:

    •   106 Y6 pupils transferring to 22 participating secondary schools (4.2% of engaged Y6 pupils).

    •   45 peer mentors representing 16 schools, (12% of mentors)

    •   16 secondary school staff, representing 15 schools (19% of secondary staff registered on the

    •   14 primary school staff, representing 14 primary schools (9% of primary staff registered on
        the site)

Ruth Garner | October 2010
                                       Virtual Transition 2010

4.2: What the primary staff and pupils reported

4.2a:   Primary Staff. 14 members of staff responded to the final
                                                                        Virtual Transition….’
evaluation, representing 9% of primary staff registered online. This    gives children an identity
                                                                        and a sense of
is a small proportion of staff representing only 13% of the primary
schools who pledged support and not representative of all primary                  Primary School
schools. The evaluations, however, identify some key issues.

4.2b:   71% of respondents were Y6 teachers, 7% mentors, 7% teaching assistants, 7% ICT lead and
7% unknown. 71% of respondents reported that they had not been involved in the transition
programme before and 86% reported that that they were able to offer sessions in the computer
room each week in order to help Y6 pupils to get online.

                                        4.2c:   43% heard about the Virtual Transition programme
 The programme is…….. ‘An
 exciting relevant transition           through an invitation to the briefing session and 29%
 activity! Secondary schools came       through a colleague in their own school. 57% were able to
 in to speak to our children and
 had already met them 'online'          attend the briefing session at the Martineau Centre. 78% of
 Children have a better                 the respondents reported that it was helpful having an
 understanding of secondary
 school life.’                          account on the Virtual Transition site because it made them
        Primary School Respondent       more confident and/or prepared to help Y6s get online. The
                                       majority of respondents reported that they didn’t really use
the virtual staff room and one reported that it would have been better to have had opportunities to
meet secondary staff online, from schools that their pupils were moving to.

4.2d:   Most respondents were pleased with the information, templates,        The programme…..
                                                                              ‘started the process
induction PowerPoint and working out pupil usernames and passwords.           of transition, first
They reported that most Y6s were able to log on without any problem.          look at new school
                                                                              and they enjoyed the
93% reported that the Y6 pupils enjoyed this experience and one               games’
respondent reported that half did and half didn’t.                                   Primary School

Ruth Garner | October 2010
                                       Virtual Transition 2010

                                        4.2e:   Respondents were asked to identify the main
  ‘The main benefit was that the
                                        benefits and these included meeting new friends before
  Year 6 children could ask
  questions about their new school      induction day, helping them to come to terms with the move
  from the children that go to their
                                        to a new school, something that could be done at home,
  secondary school and Teachers at
  their secondary school.’              communicating with staff and pupils from their new school,
         Primary School Respondent
                                        increasing confidence and getting questions answered from
                                        a pupil’s point of view. One respondent wrote ‘ They    were
probably some of the most vulnerable, who were able to have an insight to their new school’

4.2f:   93% of respondents said they would join the programme
                                                                          ‘Rest of the class wanted
again next year. The reasons why reflected the main benefits already
                                                                          to join but couldn't as
identified. Respondents took the opportunity to talk about the need       their new schools hadn't
for more secondary schools to participate in the programme.       One
respondent wrote ‘Lots of children were disappointed as we didn't                    Primary School
have many schools participating where our children were going so
out of the whole class we only had 4 children involved. Hopefully next
year St. Pauls and St. Thomas Aquinas might participate as majority
of our children go there.’

4.2g:   Some respondents identified that it would be helpful if secondary and primary schools could
be online together. Although this is logistically difficult it was a practice adopted by one secondary
school with a selection of main feeder schools. Another secondary school posted times when their
mentors would be online so that primary schools could join them. This needs to be further
developed next year.

4.2h:   Y6 Pupils.     106 Y6 pupils transferring to 22 participating     ‘Website is genius’
secondary schools (4.2% of engaged Y6 pupils) completed the                         Y6 Respondent
evaluation form at the end of the programme.              93% of Y6
respondents reported that they had found out something new about
their secondary school, 71% reported making new friends and 92% reported they felt better about
moving to their new school.

4.2i:   Respondents were asked if anything was missing from the site and many couldn’t think of
anything. Other suggestions included games and fun stuff, photos of teachers, group chat (not

Ruth Garner | October 2010
                                          Virtual Transition 2010

 ‘I want to be a mentor          always open in all schools), teachers to talk to and mentors to talk to.
 wen I’m in yr 7 or 8’           Not being online at the same time as mentors and teachers was
            Y6 Respondent        reported by several Y6 respondents as being a problem as they
                                 wanted to talk in real-time rather than post messages in a forum.

4.2j:   What was evident was that they Y6 pupils reported that
                                                                         ‘The bit I enjoyed the least
they least enjoyed the activities and most enjoyed the ‘chat’.           was when there wasn’t
Throughout the programme pupils would be found in the main               anyone to talk too’
                                                                                         Y6 Respondent
virtual entrance where all online users could be ‘seen’ and they
would talk to pupils, mentors and teachers / trainers from other
schools. This may have been confusing for some Y6 pupils. For
example, one respondent wrote ‘The website had children who are going to different secondary
schools and it should just be for people going to cockshut hill’.

           ‘I think it was all great, so I didn’t not like anything.’
                                                                               Y6 Respondent

Ruth Garner | October 2010
                                        Virtual Transition 2010

4.3: What the secondary staff and peer mentors reported.

4.3a:   Secondary Staff. 16 secondary school staff, representing 15 schools (19% of secondary staff
registered on the site) responded to the final evaluation. Of these, 88% were the Virtual Transition
Coordinators for their school and 50% had taken part in the programme before. 75% reported that
they had attended a training session at a City Learning Centre and one had a private training session
with a trainer. 12% reported that they hadn’t attended a training session but they were familiar
with Moodle, the programme or both. 6% (one person) reported that he/she had not attended an
induction and was not familiar with either Moodle or the programme.

4.3b:   Respondents were asked about their online training in conjunction with peer mentors. 56%
reported that it was a great opportunity to get to work alongside the mentors and learn together.
25% reported that it was OK but they would have preferred an online training programme
specifically for staff and 19% reported that they only watched and supported peer mentors.

4.3c:   When asked about their selection of peer mentors, 75% reported that they felt they had
made the right choices. Each respondent reported using a different method of selecting peer
mentors including teacher recommendation, valued library monitors, advertising, applying criteria
such as caring, confident, empathetic and behaviour etc., use of CATS to identify top 15 students
with a focus on communication ability then shortlisting with other staff, volunteers and buddy
programme. Some utilised last year’s mentors and mixed them with new ones. Some reported that
they were disappointed with their selection and thought that next year they might interview
potential mentors, give more clarity re role, have training after school to test commitment and
select mentors from all 3 years in Key stage 3.

4.3d:   In response to questions about engaging feeder
                                                                    ‘It seemed that once our
schools in the programme 25% of respondents said that some          feeder schools knew we were
of their feeder schools registered voluntarily and they             using VT and we did a small
                                                                    sales pitch at each (visiting
successfully ‘encouraged’ others to join in, 31% of the             pupils, parents and teachers)
respondents reported that their feeder schools didn’t know          then they came on board.’
                                                                                 Secondary School
about the programme when they visited them but were happy                             Respondent
to register on recommendation, 31% reported that few of
their    feeder schools registered and were generally
disinterested when encouraged to join in and 12% of respondents informed Y6s by letter or when

Ruth Garner | October 2010
                                        Virtual Transition 2010

visiting feeder schools. One respondent said ‘We emailed all our feeder schools (twice!) to
encourage registration and composed a letter for Year 6 parents advising them about VT which
our ECM staff took with them on school visits. Out of 38 feeder schools contacted we received 2
responses to our communications’.        Next year this respondent reported that he/she will try
establishing a direct contact with a named primary coordinator.

                  ‘Time is obviously the biggest problem. I don't think the primary staff
                  realise that the pupils will just get on with it because their IT skills
                  are good.’
                                                            Secondary School Respondent

                                     4.3e: 75% of respondents believed that mentors benefitted
    ‘They (peer mentors) felt they   from the role they had on the programme. The reason they
    were playing an important
                                     gave for this was an increase in self-confidence, improved
    role in the Y6 students'
                                     self-esteem, giving them a sense of pride and satisfaction,
    transition to secondary
    school.’                         improved literacy skills, communication and ICT skills, rising
                 Secondary School    to responsibilities, developing collaboration skills, higher
                       Respondent    profile in school, developed independent learning skills,
                                     mixing with people they are not used to mixing with, greater
                                     empathy. A respondent wrote about how one of his/her
                                     mentors saw the benefits, ‘more confident, improved
communication and advice skills, more motivated, increased yr 6 motivation, this responsibility
gives a great sense of achievement when I see confident new pupils in our school.’

4.3f: 88% of the respondents said they would be happy to participate
again next year. Some respondents would like to see a simpler navigation           ‘Thank you for the
and this is in line with comments for primary school and Y6 pupils who
                                                                                       Secondary School
didn’t particularly like all the activities. One respondent wrote ‘We                       Respondent
managed to synchronise our online times with two primary schools and
this was an extremely fruitful experience which it would be good to
develop further. ‘

4.3g: Peer Mentors. Evaluations were submitted by 45 peer mentors representing 16 schools,
(12% of mentors). All the respondents reported that they had access from home in the evenings and
                              weekends. 22% reported they visited the site less than 3 times a
    ‘I least enjoyed          week, 58% reported they visited between 3 to 6 times per week, 16%
    missing my dinner!’’
                              visited daily and 4% reported they visited the site several times a day.
               Peer Mentor
                              Respondents were asked which bit of the transition programme they
                              enjoyed least and the responses included, getting no reply when you
                              post a message, doing the activities, mentor training, talking to
                              pupils going to other schools, the games, the music room and the

Ruth Garner | October 2010
                                       Virtual Transition 2010

times when no-one else was online. Many respondents however reported enjoying all of it.

4.3h. When asked what they thought was missing their responses were consistent with other
groups of users and included opportunities to be online at the same time as groups of Y6 pupils,
games to play with others online and different games. On the whole, the majority of respondents
said that there wasn’t anything missing and had no suggestions of anything to add.

        Question 5: Was anything missing from the site?

            •   ‘No – it was safe and very good’
            •   ‘Nothing was missing, everything is there’
            •   ‘No, I think help was around everywhere on the site and games to enjoy’
            •   ‘No, it’s improved since last year’
                                                                  4 Peer Mentor Responses

4.3i: Respondents were asked if they enjoyed working as a peer mentor and 52% reported that
they enjoyed everything about it, 37% reported that they enjoyed it a lot and 11% reported that they
liked some parts of it. No respondents reported that they didn’t really enjoy it or hated most of it.

4.4j: Finally we asked respondents to tell us what they thought they got out of it, what new skills
they gained and what we should say to encourage peer mentors next year. The response was
overwhelmingly positive about the skills gained such as increased confidence, making new friends,
feeling good about helping Y6 and improved communication skills. The message from this is that it
was a worthwhile experience and one that people would like to do again. A wide range of quotes
are listed in section 9.

                                            Activity 1.2. Find someone who….

Ruth Garner | October 2010
                                       Virtual Transition 2010

5: Discussion

5.1:    This year, 2010, we have seen a further growth in engagement of the Virtual Transition
Programme across Birmingham providing added-value opportunities for Y6 pupils transferring to 37
secondary schools. The programme is beginning to be embedded in some schools as demonstrated
by the increased level of experience and skills within some schools (staff and peer mentors) and an
increased number of school staff able to act as trainers to other schools. Sharing of good practice
has occurred and a good example of this is the school who sent out personal invitations to Y6 pupils
in 2009 sharing the template letters with schools who requested this in 2010. This year we are
beginning to see more schools confident in putting their own mark on their virtual transition
programme and site, including adding logos, opening and closing activities, adding new activities and
links and finding ways in which they can try and effectively engage their own feeder schools. The
programme was late in starting in 2010 and so some progress was hampered by not being able to
start early enough to enable schools to do further preparation for Virtual Transition. More time was
also needed to help new schools / staff to fully adapt to the programme and learn the skills required
to moderate etc. This was further hampered by the staffing problems in several schools at the
beginning of the summer term due to international travel disruption, impacting on some staff not
being able to attend training. In 2011 training must take place earlier so that questions about
selecting mentors, using the system, adding schools files etc., can be addressed earlier in the school
year and staff can feel more confident in what is expected of them.

5.2:    The increase in skills and knowledge around the Virtual Transition Programme demonstrates
a growing Community of Practice (CoP) within Birmingham. At this point we need to capture the
good practice and work together to share this with other schools. The indications are that one
model of engaging primary schools and Y6 pupils does not work for all schools. Where Virtual
Transition Coordinators in schools have worked on developing appropriate and effective alternative
models of engaging their feeder schools and / or Y6 population we should be encouraging these
innovators to work together to develop the models and tools for use by others. We should be
drawing together these key stakeholders into a working party to help to refine the model, in line
with comments from all respondents, and impact on awareness raising and engaging more
secondary and primary schools in 2011. Virtual Transition is a growing Community of Practice.

5.3:    There is no doubt that the programme is a success. The evaluation has identified that 93%
of Y6 respondents reported that they had found out something new about their secondary school,

Ruth Garner | October 2010
                                        Virtual Transition 2010

71% reported making new friends and 92% reported they felt better about moving to their new
school. This data is in line with findings from 2009 and prior years. Children love it! Our experience
is that the site was busy and active and that it was difficult to move through the site, particularly in
the evenings, without being approached by a mentor or Y6 pupil who wanted to chat. Remarks were
always positive and pupils, on the whole, were polite and interested. Even if activities were not
greatly used, the messaging system was buzzing. Pupils wanted to chat, and chat in real-time rather
than post in forums where they would have to wait for a message to come back.

5.4:    There remains a big chicken and egg situation. Many primary schools report that they
won’t engage with the programme unless all secondary schools participate and many secondary
schools are disheartened because their feeder schools won’t help Y6s to participate. One of the
recommendation in 2009 was to develop a virtual area for Y6 pupils who are transferring to a non-
participating school. To staff this with a trainer and a small group of experienced mentors. This will
provide primary schools with the opportunity to engage all Y6 pupils in a virtual transition activity.
However, the number of non-participating schools was too large for us to accommodate this in
2010, particularly with the decrease in Virtual Transition team numbers. There simply would have
been too many Y6 pupils to monitor and support who were not linked to participating schools. If all
Secondary schools would participate it would be easier to engage all primary schools who could
build this into their planning during the 3 week transition programme enabling those with no access
at home to get online. How does the team move towards making this successful transition
programme an entitlement for all Y6 pupils across Birmingham?

5.5:    Training secondary staff must become an essential criterion for participating in the Virtual
Transition programme. Where staff have experience, and understand the process, this has a positive
effect on the choice of mentors, relationship with feeder schools, customising of the schools virtual
area and monitoring of activities. Even with guidance and documentation provided, staff still require
face-to-face opportunities and online training to become confident in using the site and the
programme as well as communicating online. This training and experience can be generalised to
other parts of school life and can provide ideas and opportunities for more online activities within
the curriculum. Each school may have a different Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) but the
principles of communicating, approaches, setting activities and monitoring are the same across all
platforms. Training and supported experience provides ‘added-value’ in terms of other areas of the
work the staff engage in daily.

Ruth Garner | October 2010
                                        Virtual Transition 2010

5.6:    37 secondary schools have a group of ‘expert’ Y7 VLE users who are confident in
communicating online and have had the opportunities to further develop ICT skills. For some
secondary schools, this will be a benefit if their own VLE is utilised for extending learning
opportunities. In addition, these Y7 pupils will be valuable in providing peer mentors for the
programme in 2011 to 2013 and in helping the school to develop resources online for next year’s
programme, alongside this year’s peer mentors.

5.7:    In addition 342 peer mentors were also trained to work online with Y6 pupils coming to their
schools. Some of these were peer mentors in 2009, some were Y6 participants in 2009 but many
were new to the role. The benefits to these individuals have been reported as being significant in
terms of increasing self-confidence, self-esteem, pride in their school, communication skills, IT skills
etc. The Y6 pupils and the peer mentors also add to the growing Community of Practice within
secondary schools and are learning skills that can be generalised to online learning across the

5.8:    Virtual Transition has been created to be scalable and the templates and processes make
this replicable. This efficiency measure alone has created savings in 2010. The estimated cost per
participating secondary school in 2009, was £1,800. The programme in 2010 had a budget allocation
of £50,000 which was reduced to £35,000 through claw-back. £28,000 has been invoiced and
additional claims amounting to £7,000 are expected.          Given this budget the programme cost
approximately £946 per participating secondary school, or £14.12p per Y6 pupil who engaged in the
programme. If all eligible Y6 pupils had engaged this cost would have been approximately £5.65p
each. Indications are that the cost per participating secondary schools would reduce if more
secondary schools come online in 2011, given that the standard templates and processes are already
in place. What can’t be reduced is the time and effort put into supporting new secondary schools or
engaging primary schools but with the growing Community of Practice there will be more ‘experts’
who could act as trainers and who can give support to those new to the programme. The evidence
provided within this report indicates that the Virtual Transition Programme has been efficient,
economical and effective and, therefore, good Value for Money.

5.9:    In 2010 Becta identified Virtual Transition as a good practice Case Study in support of the
Vision for Technology in Learning project and publicised it on their website at

Ruth Garner | October 2010
                                       Virtual Transition 2010

In addition to this publicity we have been approached by other schools in other authorities who are
interested in setting up a similar programme. Virtual Transition is now a complete package that has
been piloted several times and is now in format that can be replicated in any secondary school
across the UK. Should we be considering how this programme can be shared with other authorities?

                                                                       Activity 2.3: Teachers

6: Recommendations

6.1:     Consider how we can engage all secondary schools in 2011 and make this an entitlement for
all Y6 pupils.

6.2:     Commence the programme in the autumn term so that Secondary and primary schools can
build this more effectively into the Spring and summer terms.

6.3:     Call together a group of stakeholders to guide Virtual Transition 2011 including identifying
marketing opportunities, collating models of good practice for sharing, refining the activities and
contributing to the awareness raising sessions in 2011. Volunteers will be called from trainers,
virtual transition coordinators, secondary and primary schools, City Learning Centres and Local
Authority. This working group can help to identify how to link into other stakeholders and projects
in order to more firmly embed the programme e.g., secondary and primary forums, Birmingham
eLearning Foundation, clusters etc.

6.4:    Consider opportunities to generate further funding for sustainability.

Ruth Garner | October 2010
                                        Virtual Transition 2010

7: Acknowledgments

We would like to acknowledge the following people for their significant contribution towards the
success of the Virtual Transition Programme 2009:

•   Bren Taylor, Virtual Transition Programme Manager, Senior Adviser (Leading Learning
    Transformation with ICT) Transforming Education Division Children, Young People and Families
    for all his support and for enabling us to create and deliver this exciting programme.

•   Keith Edwards, for his continued support in the programme development and manipulation of
    data essential to getting all our Y6s registered.

•   Trainers Stephen Fessey, Wendell Gopaul, Julia Kossowska, Sue Welch, Claire Kilbride, Arlene
    Edgar, Phil Dangerfield and Andy Baker for delivering the peer mentor training and supporting
    participating secondary schools. This programme would not have been possible without all their
    hard work.

•   David Farrell, Link2ICT, Managing eLearning Solutions, and Eddie Higgs, Service Birmingham, for
    their help and supporting in developing the Moodle environment.

•   Participating secondary schools and virtual transition staff within these schools. Thank you for
    your corporation and active participation and the many ideas that were generated in order to
    engage feeder schools and make this a positive experience for Y6 pupils. (See list of schools –
    section 8)

•   A huge thank you to all the Peer Mentors who gave of their time so willingly to help Y6 pupils
    coming to their school.

•   All the Y6 pupils who came online and joined in the activities, meeting new friends and making
    the programme worthwhile.

•   All the participating Primary Schools. Many thanks for enabling your Y6 pupils to take part and
    being so responsive when action was needed with individual pupils.

•   And last, but not least, a big thank you to all the parents who enabled their children to join in the
    programme from home.

Ruth Garner | October 2010
                                       Virtual Transition 2010

8: Participating Secondary Schools

   1.    Archbishop Ilsley Catholic Technology College
   2.    Aston Manor School
   3.    Baverstock Foundation School
   4.    Bishop Challoner Catholic College & Sixth Form Centre
   5.    Bishop Vesey's Grammar School
   6.    Bordesley Green Girls' School
   7.    Cockshut Hill College
   8.    Dame Elizabeth Cadbury Technology College
   9.    Four Dwellings High
   10.   George Dixon International School and Sixth Form College
   11.   Hall Green School
   12.   Handsworth Grammar School
   13.   Heartlands High school.
   14.   Hodge Hill Sports & Enterprise College
   15.   Hodge Hill Girls' School
   16.   Holyhead School
   17.   Holy Trinity Catholic Media College
   18.   International School
   19.   John Willmott School
   20.   King Edwards VI Camp Hill Girls
   21.   King Edward VI Handsworth School
   22.   King Edward VI Sheldon Heath Academy
   23.   Kings Heath Boys Mathematics & Computing College
   24.   Kings Norton High School
   25.   Lordswood Girls School
   26.   Lordswood Boys School
   27.   Ninestiles
   28.   North Birmingham Academy
   29.   Queensbridge School
   30.   Saltley School
   31.   Small Heath School
   32.   St John's Wall
   33.   St Thomas Aquinas Catholic School
   34.   Turves Green Girls School
   35.   Waverley school
   36.   Wheelers Lane Technology College.
   37.   Yardleys School

Ruth Garner | October 2010
                                       Virtual Transition 2010

9: Peer Mentor Responses

Peer Mentors were asked to tell us what they thought they got out of being a mentor, what new
skills they gained and what we should say to encourage peer mentors next year. Here is a selection
of their reponses.

1.     ‘How to solve someone’s problems’

2.     ‘I am more confident to talk to new people now’

3.     ‘Helping people’

4.     ‘I gained a lot more skills and I really enjoyed it. You just should encourage them because
       they will like it when they start. I hope I can do this programme again because I loved it!!!!!

5.     ‘I think that I learned how to talk more about my school and other social things to others
       and being able to make new friends and I think peer mentors should be told about past
       experiences of peer mentors that have enjoyed the programme’

6.     ‘I would like 2 doo it again next year and it good because u make y6 people happy to be
       coming to the school by bein friendly ☺ x’

7.     ‘I learned how to make more friends easier and how to get to know them better’

8.     ‘I think I improved my skills to talk to new people and you could encourage peer mentors
       next year by letting them actually see what the different schools on the programme look

9.     ‘I have gained the skill of explaining to children of a younger age what secondary school is
       like and how to overcome their fears’

10.    ‘I Made New Friendz And I Gtt To Become Lykk A Teacher’

11.    ‘I gained confidence because I got to talk to people I never knew which made me gain more

12.    ‘I have gained a lot of courage from this’

13.    ‘having the confidence to start a conversation’

14.    ‘how to work better with others’

15.    ‘I enjoyed some parts of it. I think I have gained social skills and also remembered how scary
       it was for me moving up to year7. You should tell peer mentors that this is fun and there are
       a lot of good activities and games for you to enjoy’

16.    ‘I gained new skills and loads and not scared to talk to other pupils’

17.    ‘I learnt to talk to year 6s’

Ruth Garner | October 2010
                                        Virtual Transition 2010

18.    ‘I say encourage more skills so it help them and gives lots of help and hint and make it alive
       as Peer Mentors are doing in real life : ) ‘

19.    ‘How to use the sight how it can help children going to secondary school. New computer
       skills. Understanding how the change was for them. Tell peer mentors not to take it as a
       joke. Tell them remember how they felt but give them support and tell them why you chose
       them as peer mentors and how good they are doing’

20.    ‘Out of this I learned how to make new friend I gained a lot of skills to encourage peer
       mentors next year get the people who can often come on here because most of the peer
       mentors never came on this website’

21.    ‘I think I got a lot out of it and I got skills like having confidence to talk to new people and to
       encourage other peer mentors, you could say it is a fun way to meet new people if you
       haven't got much confidence, and it can help you grow more confidence and it really helps
       year 6 pupils through the transition stages and any peer mentor will find it a rewarding
       experience and will regret not trying it.’

22.    ‘I think that it’s an amazing experience and as well it’s a really valid part of the transition for
       year 7s because you’re helping them move up and just reassuring any little worries they
       have. It’s really worthwhile and as well you learn a lot and as well as just enhancing your
       mentoring skills it helps to enhance your people and communication skills to :)’

23.    ‘I learnt a lot by talking to people and telling them what I feel and what they fell and sharing
       each others feelings and worries’

24.    ‘Overall, I believe that I have learned so much from this. I have learned about how to
       educate people, make friends and work with different people. You should tell the mentors
       next year that being one is a great opportunity!’

25.    ‘I enjoyed it because it has been a new experience and i know i have done the year 6's a
       favour. I think the program is a good idea if everybody was to come online at the same

Ruth Garner | October 2010

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