Matatoki School is a typical country school situated on the outskirts of Thames, serving the strong dairy farming community of the Thames Valley.
Principal Tom Cochrane says the school caters for the start of school life through to Year 12 when the pupils go on to college. This school also has students coming and going every year when the dairy season ends.
Tom says the impact varies from year-to-year and child-to-child, depending on how sociable the child is, how often they have already moved schools, and how many students have changed that particular year.
“In the past I’ve taught classes where you can have a large influx, perhaps eight-10 students, this is obviously very different to just one or two and from time to time I’ve also come across students who have changed schools almost every year.
“This is extremely unsettling for the child and usually causes a multitude of issues. “This season Matatoki has one family – with two students – leaving and we expect to gain several new families. Last year, the school lost three families and gained one.” The school works hard to settle children. “Due to our small size, our school works much like a large family. Our students are very welcoming and treat new students almost like celebrities everyone wants to be friends with.
“Our school is also very active with sports and games during lunch times so new students quickly make friends and settle in.”
Tom acknowledges it can take a little longer when particularly shy students change schools. Then it is usually a matter of “buddying” them up with the right friend to help them get started. Most students quickly adapt to the change or school, class and teacher. But the most common issue is schools don’t all cover the same things at the same time of the year.
Often in maths, for example, a student may have already studied geometry and then changed schools only to find they are studying geometry at the new school. This means double-ups in some areas and missing out on others, for example measurement. Usually though there are only minimal issues. Tom says parents can help make the transition easier for their children by visiting the school prior to moving, find out about the school, taking the child in for a visit before they start if possible, and enrolling them into sports teams so they can quickly make new friendships.
“Best of all when they come on their first day [encourage them to] be positive and excited about the change, rather than sad and apprehensive due to losing friends,” says Tom.
“Involvement in sports also helps the children settle and make new friends.”
The changes brought about by the end and beginning of a new dairy season does not have a significant impact on the school because it is often only one or two families changing.