A programme to help pupils in their ‘First 50’ days of secondary school

Print this page
A programme to help pupils in their ‘First 50’ days of secondary school

Howell’s School in Llandaff places high levels of wellbeing at the heart of their approach to helping pupils settle in. The school introduced ‘First 50’ – a wellbeing programme that provides pupils with a series of experiences over the first 50 days of Year 12 to ensure that the move to a new school was a positive experience.

Number of pupils: 821
Age range: 3-18 years
Date of Estyn inspection: February 2015

Information about the school

Howell’s School, Llandaff is an independent day school for girls from the age of three to 18 years and boys from 16 to 18 years.  The sixth form is known as Howell’s College and has been coeducational since September 2005.

Howell’s School was founded in 1860 by the Drapers’ Company.  In 1980, Howell’s School joined the Girls’ Day School Trust, a charitable organisation that provides independent education in schools and a few academies across the United Kingdom.  The Girls’ Day School Trust is the school’s proprietor.  Most functions of governance are carried out centrally by the Girls’ Day School Trust Council and chief executive.  The school also has a board of local governors who provide additional support and advice.

Context and background to sector-leading practice

Ensuring consistently high levels of wellbeing is at the heart of Howell’s approach to helping pupils settle in and progress well both socially and academically at each new learning point.  The high intake of girls and boys to the sixth form college means that 50% of Year 12 students are new to the school.  To ensure that the move to a new school was a positive experience where Year 12 students quickly felt welcomed, valued, happy and confident about their learning, the school introduced ‘First 50’ – a wellbeing programme that provides students with a series of experiences, activities, events and presentations over the first 50 days of Year 12.  The programme aims to ensure that all Year 12 students integrate successfully, participate actively and achieve well by the autumn half term.  The approach was so successful that Howell’s has now rolled-out the programme across the school from nursery through to all key transition points.

Description of nature of strategy or activity

The Year 12 First 50 activities are grouped: in six areas of provision::

  • academic
  • social
  • extra-curricular;
  • belonging
  • learning tools
  • parental engagement.

In each of these areas, specific practical arrangements support students in settling in.  This includes activities such as an organisational skills workshop; a hot picnic; a geographical game to get to know the layout of the school; a Freshers’ Fair promoting clubs and societies; structured extended tutor times; a study-skills programme; and a welcome evening for students and parents.

It also incorporates mentoring sessions with personal tutors, a first report to assess academic progress and a self-evaluation review to give students the opportunity to reflect on how well they had adjusted.  The pastoral team use the feedback from these approaches to identify where students need additional support and respond to this quickly by, for example using a buddy system or engagement in extra-curricular activities.

Building on the success of the First 50 initiative, which benefited both new and existing students on entry to their post 16 studies in the college, the school extended the strategy.  

First 30 was introduced at key stage 4 to meet the needs of the significant shift in demands on pupils at this key stage.  During the first thirty days of the autumn term, the school focuses on aspects such as the effective use of technologies to support learning and promoting new clubs and societies.  This helps provide Year 10 pupils with a fresh start approach and assists them to respond to the challenges of GCSE studies, while developing new support networks and friendships in option groups.

The First 20 programme is for pupils moving into Year 7 from Howell’s junior school or transferring from other feeder primary schools.  This programme incorporates the same categories as ‘First 50’ but the content is age and stage appropriate.  For example, activities include a ‘Buzz Your Brain’ thinking-skills workshop; an overnight bonding trip; and a clubs’ fair. 

First 10 and First 15 was introduced to the nursery and for Year 3 pupils, respectively.  Activities for the nursery includes simple tasks such as pupils learning their teacher’s name, eating a healthy snack with a friend and saying ‘goodbye’ happily to a parent.  While Year 3 girls are encouraged to join a club, use a thinking map and ‘take a risk’.  The range of motivating and achievable activities is designed to ensure all pupils settle quickly and feel successful.

Welcome Programmes were also introduced for pupils arriving at any point in the year, for whatever reason, with these pupils also assigned a buddy for an extended period.  The school’s specific welcome programme for new staff has also been well received, providing a defined support structure, including dedicated buddies as well as relevant mentoring and training.

What impact has this work had on provision and learners’ standards?

The innovative way that the programme has been packaged has raised the profile of wellbeing amongst existing and new pupils and their families.  It has made everyone in the school aware of the priority the school attaches to a successful transition at each key point so that pupils can thrive academically.  Feedback from Year 12 students at the end of the first fifty days in the college has been extremely positive.  Some students say they may well have struggled to adapt to life in the college without the strong emphasis on the social and emotional aspects of the programme.  This feedback has been used to improve the events that are organised and Year 13 students are now directly involved in planning activities for the new Year 12 cohort. 

In the inspection of Howell’s School, inspectors noted that:

  • the school’s induction programmes are particularly well-designed and innovative 
  • pupils are extremely committed, enthusiastic learners who are mature and self-assured engaging confidently and productively in lessons and other areas of school life
  • pupils achieve extremely high standards at all stages of their learning
  • at key stage 4 and post-16, pupils’ performance in public examinations is outstanding when compared with that of other schools in both the maintained and independent sectors

How have you shared your good practice?

Good practice has been shared by presenting the wellbeing programme to other schools in the Girls’ Day School Trust network at key meetings.