For most children, junior school is their earliest experience of a structured learning environment. Junior school plays an essential role in inspiring a love of learning which can endure well after they leave their final year.
Junior schools do so much to provide all children with the academic and social skills necessary to succeed in adult life. We spoke to Gavin Calder, Head of Junior School and Nursery at Edinburgh Academy, about the experience of an independent junior school pupil and how the school works to support healthy mental and physical development in all its students.
Why is the junior school stage so important?
Children form patterns of learning and develop their social skills at a young age. Junior schools encourage children to develop positive behaviours which will help them grow into happy and healthy young people.
These patterns are hard to change, which is why junior schools have a great duty to communicate expectations of good behaviour and kindness to everyone at the school – this sets our children up well for the future.
What extra support do children need at this stage?
Children need tailored support – each child develops and learns at a slightly different rate and as teachers, we have to watch each one carefully to see how we can support them. A child might need extra help to master tying their shoelaces or tying up their hair, or some children may need additional literacy support to help them become confident readers.
At Edinburgh Academy, our school is small enough that we can provide tailored care – keeping class sizes below 23 students gives each child the attention and recognition they need and allows teachers to identify areas where children need more assistance. With the increasing stress of social media and social pressures on children, our teachers do a lot of pastoral work with the children, helping to promote and support good mental health.
What facilities does the Junior School at Edinburgh Academy benefit from?
We are so lucky to be based on a separate site to the senior school, located beside the Botanic Gardens. We have incredible on-site facilities for the children, including wild outdoor space, several outdoor classrooms, gyms, a sports hall, and a state-of-the-art climbing wall.
Independent school pupils also benefit from a great selection of specialist teaching from nursery-age. At Edinburgh Academy, we have specialist teachers in science, music, drama, PE and art who are based full-time at the junior school.
Children thrive when being taught in this way, engaging fully with the classes. We also start teaching modern languages from nursery age, as young children are much more receptive to learning foreign languages than we are as adults, which allows them to develop a strong base for later learning.
How do Edinburgh Academy students prepare for the transition to secondary school?
For many children, the transition from junior to senior school can cause a lot of stress. We try to minimise these worries by making the change as gradual as possible. The senior school team visit the junior school and teach lessons for the students in Primary 6, and the Rector of the senior school attends our assemblies, quickly becoming a familiar face to the students.
Our Primary 7 year is unique as they move into their own separate area of the senior school, where they have their own classroom and teachers come from the senior school to this area to give them lessons.
Many thanks to Gavin for his contribution to this blog. You can find out more about the junior school at Edinburgh Academy here.