Knightswood Secondary School – Spy Quest

Why and how we used Spy Quest


Learning from and with peers is a proven and extremely effective approach to learning and we have been looking for an opportunity to build this approach into our transition activities.

Spy Quest provided an ideal opportunity and was utilised as an enhancement to our current transition programme.

It was hoped that this activity would allay many fears that P7 youngsters regularly express about coming to secondary school such as:

  • How will I find my way around the school?
  • I won’t know anyone in my class.
  • Who will I ask for help?

I was hoping that in addition to answering these questions it would allow relationships between the P7 youngsters, the Buddies and staff to be initiated. I was also really keen that our youngsters left on a high and were excited about their return in August.

Organisation and Planning

Prior planning and organisation was essential to the success of this activity. All 240 P7 pupils were divided into 28 groups of 9 agents. This was done based on the actual tutor groups that they would be placed in on their return in August.

Spy Quest wasn’t just for the youngsters, Dr Devine wished to encourage children to understand more about science and played the part of the Mad Scientist to great effect. Groups entered the room to the sound of explosions and sight of fire balls lighting up the dark room – Awesome !


All pupils had to be issued with an individual Spy card that had their individual code name and password, these had to be written out in advance and separated into 28 the groups.

Areas of the school had to be identified to take the P7 youngsters around the school and included key areas such as the school office, the fuel zone, S1 playground, assembly hall, youth wing and a number of subject areas.

ICT facilities were made available and login passwords generated. Each group had to log in and record each of their missions. The overall progress for all the groups was displayed on a leader board in the assembly hall.

Senior buddies were briefed in advance and were issued with the information pack for their groups.

The role of spies was allocated to senior Drama students and venues and props identified.

What did the P7 youngster gain from Spy Quest

Developing communication skills – In order to complete the missions, which included cracking numerical codes, working out the meaning of puzzles, listening to verbal information and linking clues, all the group members had to communicate together and in a respectful manner to achieve their goal.

Quote – “I don’t really speak to people I don’t know but I had to and it was ok”.


Team work – The teams were problem solving, identifying strengths within the team, developing trust and getting to know each other.

Quote – “Team work rocks”

Developed listening skills, their visual and special awareness of the building – They explored the layout of the school as a group and saw the set up and layout of rooms.

Quote – “When I was looking for the fortune tellers I worked out how the room numbers work” and “I’ll know my way all round  this school”.


They enjoyed the opportunity to spend time in groups in a more fun, social atmosphere.

Quote – “I had loads of fun and I didn’t even know anyone in my team before today” and “It was awesome, it was really cool because we were like real spies, the computer work was really fun”.

Getting to know their Buddies – They spent the afternoon working with their Buddies with limited supervision from staff.

Quote – “See you in August Marc”.

What did the Buddies gain from Spy Quest


The chance to interact and get familiar with P7 youngsters allowed a bond to be created between spy groups and agents. They answered numerous questions from P7 youngsters, questions they may have been too shy to ask staff. The invaluable opportunity to further a leadership role as they took their groups around on their own, ensuring that the groups were kept on task, noise levels were minimised, keeping the groups together and working as a team.

Provided an opportunity for pupils to take on a key dramatic role and role play the part of a spy. They were constantly problem solving and this allowed their confidence as a Buddy to grow. The Buddies felt they were giving something back.


Spy Quest was a very positive experience as it allowed me to see the groups interact and work together as teams. The nature of the missions naturally encouraged the participants to be excited, focused and enthusiastic about completing their mission.

They developed social skills, core skills and allayed many fears/ concerns through a fun activity and they really remained oblivious to the fact that actual learning was taking place. It was interesting to see how focused the teams were on winning and really embraced working together, I watched some of the teams identify strengths and start to support each other.

Developing friendships within their groups was evident and on the first day of term I overheard 2 youngsters say “I remember you, you were on my team”. The engagement in active learning was very rewarding especially for youngsters who had only met the day before, where in unfamiliar surroundings and completing very unusual tasks.

I was especially pleased to witness the change in the Buddies, who really rose to the challenge. To see their confidence grow as peer educators and develop a real team spirit was especially rewarding.

We finished a very busy visit with an award ceremony which was a real highlight for the youngsters. Primary schools were informed of the winning team and it was a pleasure to include Spy Quest in our end of term newsletter.


We look forward to developing Spy Quest into the curriculum for all year groups.

Anna MacLennan DHT, Knightswood Secondary School, Glasgow

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