John Willmott School

The gift of learning – John Willmott School helps children celebrate new chapter in their lives

Wednesday 14th July, 2021

A caring Sutton Coldfield secondary school is giving year 6 pupils a helping hand with their move to ‘big school’ this September, in the form of a gift-wrapped book.

The pupils, who are joining year 7 at John Willmott School, part of the respected Arthur Terry Learning Partnership, will each receive a personal copy of the best-selling ‘Look Both Ways’ book as part of their welcome induction package.

Recruitment agency, Zest Education, has supplied 170 copies of the book to John Willmott, to help students transition to secondary school, and to foster their love of reading.

Assistant headteacher and English teacher, Lisa Lockley (pictured above, left), said:

“We’ve been buying our incoming year 6s a reading book for a while – I like the idea of giving them a shared experience. The transition from primary to secondary school is a big step, and we want to give our students the best possible start, with a dedicated induction programme, designed to inspire and empower children and help them settle in to school life.

“By giving them a gift, we can personalise the experience and celebrate this memorable time. We are so fortunate that Mike and the team at Zest Education share our vision and have kindly sponsored this programme.”

‘Look Both Ways’ by Jason Reynolds is the CILIP Carnegie Medal Winner, 2021. Mrs Lockley read the book over Easter and selected it as it tells the story of groups of friends walking home from school – with one story per street.

Mrs Lockley said:

“Each story and each street focuses on a different set of friends and I felt this was perfect as many of our new year 7s will be walking home by themselves for the first time in September- making new friends and experiencing new things. There are stories about selflessness; about grief; siblings; differences and about self-discovery. The ten stories have a commonality – which is the school – but within the school there is tremendous diversity, which this book celebrates. 

“In previous years students have been given ‘The House with Chicken Legs’ and ‘You Are Awesome’, which we used in form time to support transition. We aim to use ‘Look Both Ways’ slightly differently, students will have this read aloud to them during one form time a week- this will not only enrich their exposure to vocabulary and storytelling but further support their transition by gifting them a shared experience.”

The gift of book giving is now an annual tradition at John Willmott School. Current year 8 students who joined in September 2019, each received a copy of Sophie Anderson’s ‘House with the Chicken Legs’ along with a personalised video message from the author.

Madaleine, who moved to John Willmott from New Oscott Primary School, said:

“We received the book ahead of induction day – it was really welcoming and nice. The book helped me to make friends and gave us something to talk about.”

Former Gunter Primary School pupil, Maddison, said: “The book was very comforting. It helped me to meet new people and enjoy school.”

Safiya, who previously attended Paget Primary School, said: “The book is about self-discovery, and it helped us to express ourselves to other people.”

Mike Talbot, education specialist at Birmingham-based recruitment agency Zest Education (pictured above, right), works closely with ATLP schools, including John Willmott.

He said:

“It’s wonderful to be able to support this excellent induction programme, which focuses on the move to secondary school and the importance of literacy. Books can have a profound impact on children’s lives.  This is important to me, both as a parent and former teacher, and during lockdown I’ve really appreciated the importance of reading to my own child. It’s a privilege to be able to support our schools in this way, working alongside passionate and inspirational teachers like Lisa. I wish all year 6s the best in their move to secondary school, at the start of this new and exciting chapter in their lives.”