As part of its carefully tailored efforts to support new pupils transitioning to year 7, Trinity Catholic College in Middlesbrough chose PET-Xi Training to run an exciting and engaging custom-made team-building activity
About the school
Trinity Catholic College is a larger than the average mixed secondary school, including a sixth-form, located in a deprived area of Middlesbrough. More than half its 1,362 pupils, aged 11-19, are supported by pupil premium funding – significantly higher than the national average. It also has a higher than average number of pupils with SEN and/or disabilities. The new headteacher is in the process of reshaping the culture of the school, including heightening expectations of its staff and pupils.
Transition points in school life can be highly stressful for all students – potentially affecting their emotional wellbeing and academic achievements. The move from primary to secondary school is a particularly significant change and so Trinity Catholic College handles things very carefully as students move from Year 6 to Year 7. Its intake of 256 new Year 7 pupils is particularly challenging because they come from a wide range of 36 different primary schools, including 11 core primary partners. “It’s crucial that we get them enthused about coming here right from the start”, explains Director of Learning Sarah Mitchinson. “We are a Catholic school with a strong ethos of ‘inclusive learning’ and so we need the transition days to make the children feel part of the Trinity family right away.” “We run a positive, core curriculum-based transition programme, covering maths English and RE. Any external providers we work with have to offer something really exciting and engaging for students.”
The school chose the ‘Escape!’ activity from PET-Xi Training to support the maths element of its transition activities. Based on the ‘escape room’ experience already popular with teenagers as a leisure activity, PET-Xi’s Escape! is an entertaining one-hour team-building programme incorporating puzzles and problem-solving activities. Participants work in teams of six to eight, using logic and lateral thinking to crack clues and solve a succession of puzzles and mysteries. Along the way they win tokens which can be bartered for extra help from the PET-Xi ‘Games Masters’ running the activity. The ultimate goal is to ‘escape’ from the room with as many tokens as possible. With only the contents of the room, their wits and creativity to help them, the teams soon realise the power of collaboration and communication as they race against the clock to ‘escape’.
The tasks include everything from complex mind-mapping to kinaesthetic activities and pattern recognition – all sorts of puzzles to suit every different learning style. Previous exam success or physical strength are not required – the academically brightest students will not necessarily win the day. Teams who do best realise the need to assign roles and responsibilities and think outside the box, splitting up and dividing tasks as best suits their individual abilities.
“It’s compelling stuff,” explained PET-Xi’s managing director Fleur Sexton. “It also encourages students to think strategically because if they spend all their tokens ‘buying’ clues then they may not have enough at the end to achieve a winning score.
“We designed ‘Escape!’ in the light of all the recent discussions in education and inspection about enhancing and enriching the curriculum. It suits any age group of students at any time – for example it could be used as a ‘treat’ or to support the mental health of students at exam time when they are up to their necks in stress.
“It also works well in bonding vertical tutor groups and has even been used for teacher CPD”.
Trinity Catholic College staff found the course was the perfect way to engage and empower learners. “Students loved the session and I would recommend it to any school”, said Sarah Mitchinson. “Working with a team of staff I even had a go at ‘escaping’ myself and was very impressed – my colleagues described it as being great fun and challenging and useful to see how others work under pressure!
“The PET-Xi team leading the activity were brilliant and extremely good with the children. As a school we have a strong focus on maths and ‘Escape!’ fitted in perfectly with that.”
“There was a real buzz around school about it, so that by the second day when the word had got around about what was involved, students were really excited when it was announced it was going to be their turn – they were looking forward to it.”
Comments from students themselves included ‘very fun!’, ‘exciting’ and ‘challenging’. “We had to use our brains a lot and work as a team”, said one. ‘We all had fun and I got to work with people I had never worked with before’, commented another.
“We wanted a very curriculum-driven transition to get the children to think; ‘We cannot wait to start at that school’ and I was delighted that PET-Xi helped us achieve that”, concluded Sarah Mitchinson.