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Developing the characteristics to thrive at secondary school

ASDAN’s Lift Off programme has been helping staff get to know their Year 7 learners better and support their integration into secondary school.

“I have been teaching for 20 years and there are activities in Lift Off that I have not seen before,” said Emma Gilbert, Head of Core Studies at Sawtry Village Academy, part of Cambridge Meridian Academies Trust (CMAT), Cambridgeshire. “The challenges are creative and fun and they’ve been a big hit with the learners. Delivering Lift Off has been refreshing and it’s been a reminder for me of why I got into teaching.”

Emma Gilbert: Lift Off has helped us
get to know learners


Emma started delivering Lift Off, ASDAN’s primary to secondary school transition programme, in September 2018 after senior management at CMAT identified a need to introduce a more structured transition programme that was well resourced. A decision was taken to deliver Lift Off across the trust because it develops the attributes and skills needed to help learners make a confident and successful start at secondary school.

Lift Off is being delivering in a variety of models in five of the six secondary schools in CMAT. At Sawtry, Year 7 learners undertake Lift Off as part of their PSHE provision for one hour a week. The programme centres on the development of 18 key characteristics that are essential for young people to thrive and progress at secondary school. These include:

  • resilience
  • determination
  • communication
  • self-control
  • problem solving

“It’s a priority for Sawtry to get to know students well and Lift Off helps you gain a rounded knowledge of the learners,” said Emma. “Through the programme, the learners explore their strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, their achievements, worries about starting secondary school, as well as their aspirations for the future. Staff build up a clearer picture of the student which helps us support their integration into secondary school.”

Emma said the programme has helped students become more self-aware and reflect on their engagement at school. One Year 7 student commented: “In English, I was just getting on with my work. But after doing Lift Off, I started to challenge myself more – I would think ‘did I do enough?’ and ‘did I do my best?’”

“This quote from a learner is an example of how Lift Off challenges young people’s internal monologue,” said Emma. “It encourages young people to stop and think about the part they are playing in their education – it’s not about going through the motions, it’s about challenging and questioning yourself, being aware of how you are engaging with school and having an understanding of what you need to do to succeed.”

She added: “One of the things that’s really good about this programme is introducing the students to language about skills and attributes. This helps them identify the skills and attributes they have, and the qualities they need to succeed in life.”

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