Getting ahead through summer school

Getting ahead through summer school

Written by Danielle Finlay, Senior Leader at Sandringham School, St Albans and WCSQM Associate, this blog highlights how Sandringham’s summer school will give prospective year 7s the opportunity to get ahead prior to embarking on their secondary school experience.

Another year of disruption to School Life: the restrictions on mixing in schools; the isolation from friends and teachers; and the absence of the wider community in school, has meant that new year 7s are still yet to be fully immersed into a normative secondary experience. 

For our prospective year 7s, who have had their final years of primary provision disrupted in the same way, the concept of large secondary schools with lots of movement, lots of students and lots of adults, may be more daunting than ever before. Displaced from their cocoons of familiarity, our new students face adversity, change and challenge without some of the natural growth and adaptation that they would have had habitually in Key Stage Two. 

Some positives can be felt from COVID; schools have had the opportunity, at times, to reflect on what has been missing and what has been missed, harnessing this absence, and reinvigorating what matters most to them. At Sandringham, the values at the crux of our community are: relationships, respect and responsibility. Our Summer School will give our prospective students an opportunity to develop relationships with their year group, with friends and with themselves, enhancing their ability to accept their responsibility for their actions and the way that others may respond to these. This profound respect for others and self, will enable our students to thrive in a collegial community who are kind, considerate and support one another, such that ‘everybody can be somebody’, and that ‘somebody’ is of their choosing. 

Our Intent: aims and objectives of our Summer School Programme

COVID has taken much away from students and their school experience, however, to consistently barrage children with the need to ‘catch up’ may instil feelings that are insurmountable. By reframing the time lost as something that everyone has experienced, students are not ‘catching up’ as everyone is in the same place. Instead, we term it ‘getting ahead’, something that they have control over, that they can be active in, that can empower them to pursue their goals and ambitions. Therefore, Sandringham’s Summer School, is a ‘get ahead programme’, one which will develop the whole child, through exposure to students, staff, activities, competitions, which will enable socialisation and therefore collegiality and community-mindedness. 

‘Everybody can be somebody’ requires students to lead: leading themselves and influencing others. This mindset enables cohesion amongst individuals, inspires student agency and requires social responsibility to lift each other up, rather than tearing each other down. The events of the Summer School aim to do just this: to recognise personal super-strengths; to appreciate the super-strengths of others; to utilise the combination and collection of these super-strengths to become stronger. In order to achieve this, there must be carefully planned and opportune moments for critical awareness, self-reflection and metacognition to identify, deconstruct, reconstruct and comprehend the individual in relation to the other. This serves as the vehicle for the individual – to collaborate and steer the direction of the community’s collective agency. 

Our Implementation: World Class Schools Quality Mark (WCSQM)’s  character App

To support our intended outcome around personal and community responsibility, we have themed our Summer School as an introduction to our ‘Sandringham Community’, depicting how we incorporate the WCSQM values and ethos within this. This will in turn, support our students with an increased focus on mental health, wellbeing, relationships, and general recovery from the disruption caused by COVID. We have designed activities that span from literacy support, art, sport, team building and problem solving, to more discovery-based opportunities of orienteering and map-reading. These will incorporate the theme of community throughout the weeks, introducing our prospective students to our World Class standards and expectations at Sandringham. 

These activities will build greater understanding of the values in action – how students, with commitment, knowledge and understanding, can succeed in their chosen ventures, developing and growing purposefully by reflecting on their journeys to become leaders of their lives. Our Summer School and the relationship amongst students, and between students and staff, will create a common language of shared beliefs, creating scope for students to realise their potential, act accordingly, and determine their own quantum of empowerment. Active reflection, interrogation and deep thought will mean that conversations, activities and learning will not be merely transactional, but students will become active agents of ‘acts of cognition’ not ‘transferals of information’. 

In order for students to track and visualise their journey, we will be using the Primary WCSQM  app which enables students to record evidence of developments in their character and outlook. The commentary that students will contribute, will vocalise their understanding, helping them to make meaning from their experience. This metacognitive reflection enables students to negotiate and understand themselves based on the opportunities given, but also as a result of the relationships built and drawn on in order to be successful, (Alexander, P.5). The decision to use the Primary App stems from onboarding and students not having access to school email addresses as they will not have been enrolled on our MIS system; the Primary App still requires students to log and track information without needing the level of personal data necessitated for the secondary version. 

Our desired impact

We hope that our students will be able to reflect systematically on Summer School as the initial stage of their Secondary School journey, recognising the character that they currently possess, raising their awareness of desired developments in their own character in order to make a positive impact on the whole school community and wider. The app serves as the platform and mechanism to visualise and track these initial stages, supporting students to identify themselves and celebrate the achievements of others. Given the span of values promoted through the WCSQM app, our students can celebrate their individuality, and champion the plethora of interpretations and identifications with these values. We hope that our students will view themselves as a puzzle piece within the large picture, whilst realising that that picture can change with their own agency: they set the direction of their pathway and will be supported at every step of the way by committed staff. Through the use of the app and the Summer School more generally, our students will be fast-tracked to get ahead: ahead in terms of their knowledge of self; ahead in their desired journey; and ahead in their pursuit of ambition. Through reflection and relationships, two of the pillars of our school, students will be able to concretise their experience, skills and character development within the whole-school culture in Sandringham in September.


‘Educating with purpose, the heart of what matters’, Stephen Tierney, (2020).
Specific chapters:
Chapter 1, Why we educate
Chapter 4, The organisation of education
Chapter 5, Cultural transmission

‘Developing Dialogic Teaching: genesis, process, trial’, Robin Alexander, (2018).

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