We are very proud of our buddy system at Upham which we have developed and refined over a number of years. Our system is used to help our new Year R children start school confidently and enthsiastically with a sense that someone is always there who will look after them. It is rooted in our school vision of love and care - to form strong, genuine relationships.
How does the buddy system work?
We pair our new children up with a child from Year 6. Just like all of the opportunities at Upham,everyone is included so every child gets a buddy and every Year 6 child is given the responsibility. If we need some more buddies we will choose some Year 5s to help as well. The oldest children form relationships and look out for their younger partner. The help walk in with them in the mornings, help get them settled, meet up with them at playtime and sit with them during lunchtimes. Throughout this they act as positive role models; modelling how to behave and act.
Is it just for the benefit of the youngest children?
Our youngest children settle really quickly because of their buddies which really helps them as they become tired towards the end of the half term. However, the oldest children benefit hugely as well. They really enjoy the relationships and are eager to meet their new buddies when they know they are visiting. This is how a couple of buddies described their experiences:
" I really love being a buddy because it's really fun playing with them and watching them learn. I love being able to help them and steer them in the right direction. It's nice that she adores me and looks up to me as a grown-up!" Attia, Year 6
"Having a buddy makes me care more about the younger children and trying to help them more. It is also fun because they play with you and make a real relationship." Liam, Year 6
How is it Introduced?
We hold an information meeting for our new parents in July where we share with parents a photo of their buddy so parents can show this to their child and talk about them. The older children also write a welcome card to introduce themselves. When the new children visit us for a series of taster mornings in July they recognise their buddy and spend a couple of hours playing with them. The buddy (under the supervision of the class 1 staff) help show them what to play with, where the toilets are and help them explore. After three of these mornings the relationship has started to develop.
How long does it last?
The system is really only needed for the first term - by the October half term most children are confident, happy and know how school works. However, because the children have formed strong relationships they continue to play, interact and share things - because they want to. All of our school events involve all the children so they will often work together in shared reading activities, on special one-off days like 'Science Day', during sports day and they sit together in 'family groups' during some collective worships.
Some of our buddies even stay in touch when the Year 6s have moved onto secondary school. It says a huge amount about the quality of the relationships and the maturity of our children that when as secondary children, they still are excited to visit their infant buddy!