How to support Y7s once they've stopped getting lost

Phew! You're half a term in. By now you're starting to get a picture for how the rest of the year will pan out, just about, and started to establish the priorities now the initial mayhem has died down.

You're also somewhat able to name the Y7s - definitely the one who's the spitting image of his brother (behaviour included), definitely the one who found day one too overwhelming to leave reception, and definitely the one clipping at your heels with persistent questions. The other hundred-odd are a work in progress, but getting there.

Unfortunately, the names you're most able to recall are the students who you're worrying about; the one's who you're concerned won't make the progress they need to in the long-term.

They can now find their way round, and they've figured out their timetable, but they don't seem settled, they're not knuckling down, and they're struggling with the academic nature of secondary.

So, what to do?

The Power of Peer Mentoring

1. Start to talk to parents

It's the start of their secondary career, so you have a really good, genuine excuse for getting in touch with parents and engaging them positively - you want to keep them up to date with how their child is getting on, and what they can do to build a really strong platform right in Y7.

Build it up slowly - don't dive in with a 'meeting', but start with a text, a phone call, an informal catch up at the gate. And keep it positive. Suggest little things they can do to support in some of the areas you're worried about (e.g. 'you can ask about their english lesson and what they're reading when they get home').

2. ‎Coach the individuals

Like (1), this about starting small. Grab <5mins with one of the students you're worried about and have a quick, supportive chat with them. Think of it like a sports coach or football manager pulling their player to the side-line for a second.

What has been your favourite part of this week? What have you found hardest? What could you do differently next week to make it less hard / less likely to happen again? What could I do to help you with that?

Repeat this regularly enough, and hopefully you'll notice them making changes around school. They'll also know that they've got a supportive adult in their corner - so win, win.

3. Enlist the experts

The experts being older students from within your own school. They have a specific and recent knowledge of what it's like to start at your school - what it's like to wear the uniform, how to adjust to the homework, how to interpret the first English text. That knowledge isn't available anywhere else! So the key will be to power it up in the most effective and genuine way you can.

Have you got specific subject prefects, or stand out students who you can ask to help? Are there some older students who you think could use a leadership role to develop themselves?

At Franklin Scholars we have our leading peer-coaching programme, as well as a range of ways we can support you with this one, so get in touch if you'd like to make the most of peer-tutoring and mentoring in your school.

4. ‎Cross-phase CPD

This one's more of a long term one, I'm sorry. But it's a goodie! Often Y7s can seem to arrive out of nowhere - and if they're not where you expected it's often tricky for teachers to know how to take a few steps back. What did they do in primary? How have they been taught previously?

Can you or your teachers get in touch with a local Y6 teacher? Can they visit? Can that teacher offer them specific advice and support about how that subject is being taught in their school?

Equipped with the expertise of an active primary teacher - you could be better placed to scrub up the basics of the Y7s you're most worried about.

"Crucial Support for a crucial juncture": Franklin Scholars at St Clement Danes School.

Faye Ramsbottom, Religious Studies and Philosophy Teacher and Assistant Head of Key Stage 4 at St Clement Danes School, explains how her experience of becoming a Programme Leader for Franklin Scholars has taught her to re-focus on removing barriers to learning for vulnerable pupils.

As Programme Leader for Franklin Scholars at St Clement Danes School for the last year, it’s been my responsibility to coordinate and oversee twice-weekly sessions with Year 10s and Year 7s, involving a combination of group activities, 1:1 literacy support and 1:1 mentoring.

The most powerful thing for me has been seeing students find their way within the programme and within the school, and the Year 10s taking the initiative and jumping at the chance to help younger students out. The Year 7s are even doing it now too – offering help in areas where their peers are struggling. 

Some Y10-Y7 pairs have built really strong and productive relationships. One striking example of the power of peer networks has been personified by the relationship between one Year 7 and his Franklin Scholar. The younger pupil is very outgoing, and not always inclined to sit down and complete tasks that require an extended period of concentration. His Y10 mentor had the idea of teaching him how to play chess, which has been great to see and has likely been a factor in improving his ability to focus in class. 

Year 7 participants have reported an increase in their confidence, and have felt supported by having a trusted peer in school. Where the relationship between mentor and mentee is strong there has been a noticeable impact on pupils’ attitudes to learning – shown through reports from teachers. Amongst the Year 10s we have noted, in particular, the development of their leadership and communication skills.

I think what makes the programme stand out from other peer mentoring or buddying schemes is the frequency and consistency that comes with the programme – Y7 pupils having another person who’s not a teacher, who’s more on their level and closer to their age, and who actively wants to help them out, twice a week, every week. The opportunity that they have over the course of the year to build real positive relationships is exceptional. 

The identity and accreditation definitely makes a difference too – the Y10s are proud to call themselves the Franklin Scholars, and knowing that they are part of a network of students around the country working towards the same goals helps to spur them on.

While I knew this already, running the programme has reminded me how important it is to remove any barriers to learning early on in a student’s education, as it can have such a big impact later on. The transition from primary to secondary is a time of challenge for many pupils and it’s the single most important moment to put the right provision in place. Peer-to-peer support is a powerful tool to aid in this. 

I have definitely enjoyed the experience. Simply seeing the students interacting with each other is enough to make it all worthwhile!


Franklin Scholars is a peer-mentoring programme to ease the transition from primary to secondary school for vulnerable students (e.g. students with low self-confidence or challenges in literacy), while equipping Y10s with academic mentoring and leadership skills.

Through the programme, both year groups are given the opportunity to develop their confidence, resilience and socialisation skills; all of which leads to raising their academic attainment.