From #virtual tours to top tips, @SchoolToolkit provides a one-stop shop for those about to start secondary school in Derby 

PUPILS in Derby can take a virtual tour of their new secondary school and get the answers to any questions they may have ahead of making the transition in September, thanks to an Opportunity Area funded website and app.

The team behind the School Toolkit app and website, a one-stop shop showcasing everything you need to know about school life which has been translated into five different languages, have been busy creating and sourcing information as thousands of 11-year-olds in Derby prepare to make the big move.

Due to the Coronavirus outbreak, transition days in secondary schools are not able to take place in most schools, and, instead, schools in Derby have created their own virtual tours for new starters.

Some, such as The Bemrose School, in Uttoxeter New Road, have filmed a question and answer session which sees Year 7 pupils who made the move the previous year, answer questions from those about to embark on life at secondary school.

“Usually, at this time of year, Year 6 pupils are preparing for ‘taster’ days at their new school, getting excited about leaving assemblies and maybe making plans for a school prom,” said Ellen Wilkinson, deputy headteacher at Bemrose School and lead on School Toolkit.

“It is really sad for the pupils who will miss out on all this, following restrictions put in place across the UK after Coronavirus outbreak, so secondary schools in Derby have been encouraged to provide new starters with a virtual tour of their school.

“Pupils want to know where they will need to be on the first day, how to get from one end of school to the other for their lessons and how big the dining hall is. They may be feeling anxious about secondary school, so we have resources and lots of information on how parents and carers can help their child to cope with this.

“Parents and carers will, I’m sure, have questions about school uniform, such as where they need to purchase it from, and all of the information they need can be found on our website and app.”

Launched earlier this year, School Toolkit has been translated into Polish, Kurdish, Urdu, Slovak and Latvian. It aims to encourage and support engagement between home and school and has been the go-to for many parents and carers who have been homeschooling during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Eighteen schools, predominantly in Normanton, Sinfin, Alvaston and Chaddesden, currently have access to the website and app, which is an Opportunity Area initiative.

“While our main focus is on those who are transitioning from primary to secondary school, we are also mindful of the four-and-five-year-olds who will be starting school and those who, when schools reopen, may have been away from school for six months due to the Coronavirus pandemic,” said Kash Khunkhuna, Project Manager for School Toolkit and communications officer for the Harmony Trust of schools.

“The current Year 5 pupils, who will move to secondary school in 2021 and will be thinking about which school they would like to apply for, may also find the resources useful while there is information, too, for parents and carers whose child may have special educational needs, put together by the National Autistic Society.”

Believed to be the first of its kind in the UK, School Toolkit have received a further 12 months’ funding from the DfE with the programme set to be rolled out into secondary schools later this year.

“We have been delighted with how well-received School Toolkit has been in Derby, but we felt like we were just getting going before the Coronavirus outbreak forced schools to shut,” added Ellen Wilkinson.

“There are parenting tools and websites which are out there, however the School Toolkit is purely Derby-focused; it’s a first of its kind for parents and carers in Derby.

“We are thrilled that the DfE have given the project additional funding and look forward to developing School Toolkit further.”

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