Transforming transition: helping learners thrive at secondary school

Transforming transition: helping learners thrive at secondary school

The transition from primary to secondary school can be daunting and stressful for young people. It is a time of uncertainty; of forging new friendships, getting used to new teachers, shifting from one classroom to another for different subjects and coping with the strange, overwhelming environment of a much bigger school. From being the oldest in their primary school, pupils moving up are suddenly the youngest.

The move from primary to secondary has also been shown to have an academic impact. It is well known that the long summer holiday makes it hard for pupils to settle back to school in September. But those transferring to secondary school face a double whammy, as there is also evidence that children who performed well at primary may struggle in Key Stage 3. If pupil progress is to continue, therefore, strategies must be put in place to support young people through this challenging time.

To help them with the challenges of moving from primary to secondary school, ASDAN has teamed up with The Progression Trust  and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation – which has provided funding of £147,000 over 18 months – to develop a scheme aimed at equipping children with the personal skills and resilience to cope with this momentous time in their lives.

The scheme, Building for Progression: a foot on the ladder is being piloted by The Avon Valley School, and three of its feeder primary schools, Boughton Leigh Junior School, Northlands Primary School and Riverside Academy, all of which are in Rugby.

The aim is to develop soft skills, and build self-esteem and self-worth through the curriculum with the expectation that these will help children make a smoother transition to the next stage of their education.

On July 4, Headteachers, Teachers and Educationalists met at The Avon Valley School to find out what impact the scheme had made so far. Peter Rose, a Researcher from Tiller Research, which is evaluating the scheme in conjunction with the University of Wolverhampton, found significant changes in attitudes among the pupils who are due to move from primary to secondary.

Primary pupils in Year 5 taking part in the programme were interviewed in June 2015 and then again in June this year, as Year 6s, after participating in the scheme. Their comments were compared to a control group, which did not take part in the scheme. Mr Rose found that among the intervention group, the language around transition had become more positive and confident than that of their peers.

The number of pupils who felt excited about the move to secondary school was 56% for the pupils in the intervention group compared with 45% in the control group, while those who felt ‘confident and/or happy’ about the prospect was 33% and 21% respectively.

Children who were in the intervention group were more likely to look forward to learning new things – 16% compared with 6% in the control group, while the numbers who were now looking forward to making new friends was 18% and 0% respectively.

Significantly, the language around transition had also changed to a more positive tone among those who had been on the progression programme. Where previously they might have been worried about the size of their new school, this was now migitated with ‘well, I’ll have a map’ or ‘there will be people to ask’. While they might previously have wanted to ‘blend in’, they were now willing to ‘join in’. What the evaluation indicated was that the pupils had developed strategies to help them cope with the uncertainty of their new environment.

Researchers will interview the intervention group again in October once they have settled into their secondary school to find out how they coped with the transition, and will compare their experiences to those of the control group before publishing their final evaluation.

Kath Grant, ASDAN’s Director of Education, said: “One of our charitable objectives is to reduce the impact of educational disadvantage; disadvantaged learners are disproportionately affected by transition and often never fully integrate into secondary school. 

“This is not only a huge waste in terms of individual unhappiness and the national asset that each child represents but it damages the schools through lack of progress, poor attendance, increased behaviour incidents and a less successful transition out of school which impacts on destination data.

“Another of our aims at ASDAN is to recognise and celebrate achievement and to learn from good classroom practice. So an action research project where we can hold up great teaching to a wider audience and reduce disadvantage is a perfect project for ASDAN.”

Author: Dorothy Lepkowska, Journalist and former ASDAN media liaison consultant

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