Kingscliff Public School, NSW, supports buddies through orientation and transition

Teachers and students at Kingscliff Public School in New South Wales have worked together to support the orientation and transition of students starting their first year at school with the help of the Better Buddies Framework.

Since implementing the Framework in 2011, teachers have introduced a variety of activities and processes to support this new chapter in the young students' lives and prepare the older students for their newfound responsibility.  Teachers use the Framework to continuously support and enhance the school's pre-existing buddy system.

2 - Buddies at Kingscliff Public School, NSWAt Kingscliff Public School, the formal buddy relationship begins when the older students are in year five and continues informally in year six.

Teachers at Kingscliff Public School begin preparing the older buddies for their important role when they are in grade four.  The students participate in training sessions at the end of term three and can then assist with the implementation of orientation activities for the new students.

Better Buddies Coordinator, Louise Graham, explains the ways students get involved in the orientation activities and their strategies for sustaining the relationships between buddy pairs over time.

"At the end of term three, the grade four students participate in Better Buddies training lessons to prepare for being older buddies to the new students the following year," Louise said.

"During the training lessons, students participate in activities from the Better Buddies Framework to prepare them for working with the younger students. They also help create kinder packs that contain essential items needed to help new students settle into school.

"One element of the kinder packs is the introduction DVD, where students create footage about their school, introduce staff members and showcase different areas around the school.

"We ensure each student plays a role in the DVD to promote the Better Buddies value of 'including others'.

"In the first orientation session, the older buddies take the younger buddies to the kinder rooms and participate in play activities, to help them settle into their new environment," Louise said.

"During this time buddies are not individually matched but work in different buddy groups to ensure all students get to know each other.

1 - Buddies at Kingscliff Public School, NSW"At the end of the orientation sessions, the younger buddies are given their kinder packs to take home and show their parents which helps build connections between home and school."

Louise and her colleagues believe these activities prepare the older buddies to play an integral role in the new students' lives, and also reassure the new students' parents that their child is being cared for from their first day of school.

"We also communicate to parents proactively by including information and updates on the buddy pairs at parent information nights and via the school's newsletter as the year progresses."

At the beginning of the new school year, older buddies at Kingscliff PS participate in a retraining and refresher session to ensure they are ready to support their younger buddies' transition to school.

Buddies are now individually matched and the older students welcome the younger students into the school as both groups of students are familiar with each other.

"During the first week of school, the older buddies stay with their younger buddies during recess and lunchtime and assist them to develop positive relationships with other students in their year level," Louise explained.

As the school year progresses, Louise and her colleagues implement activities included in the Better Buddies teacher's manual to sustain and grow the buddy relationships. Teachers have also used these ideas as a catalyst for developing their own buddies' activities to further enhance the experience for students.

"We hold buddy activities every Thursday where students can learn and play - which is something we all look forward to.

"By taking part in buddy activities, we have seen some students build leadership qualities that have prepared them for roles such as School Council."

"Learning how to be a leader and meeting new people are things the students enjoy most. This gives them a sense of responsibility while making them feel a valued part of the school community," she added.

Grade four teacher, Alisha McMahon has also seen great enthusiasm from students involved in the program.

"All the students love participating in Better Buddies and grade four students are truly passionate about playing the role of an older buddy," Alisha said.

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