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Transition project boosts learners' confidence and resilience

Transition project boosts learners' confidence and resilience

Building resilience in primary pupils helps them make a more confident transition to secondary school, research finds

The transfer from primary to secondary school is a challenging time for pupils. The prospect of big, unfamiliar school, new sets of friends and a different classroom and teacher for every lesson can be difficult, daunting and stressful. It can also mean a drop in academic progress as pupils struggle to cope with their new environment.
But new research from ASDAN and The Progression Trust, supported by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation – which has provided funding of £147,000 over 18 months - has found that, with the right preparation, children can cope better with the upheaval of changing schools.

Crucially the project, called Building for Progression: a foot on the ladder, was also found to have improved pupils’ SATs results, particularly in English and maths, in at least one of the primary schools.

Increasing confidence and self-esteem

On November 15, more than 100 heads, teachers and educationalists gathered in London to hear about the outcomes of the project, and how teachers in three primary schools worked with pupils on their self-esteem, resilience and personal skills during the four terms prior to moving to secondary school in September this year.

The project involved teachers helping pupils to develop and explore their personal skills in discrete lessons involving the whole year group, or in a cross-curricular approach, for example, as part of English and PSHE classes.

Teachers designed and developed their own classroom activities as part of an action research project, which allowed them to use their professional expertise and judgement to create experiences that suited the needs of their pupils. The focus of these activities was building confidence, self-awareness and self-control by encouraging pupils to think positively about themselves and their strengths as individuals.

The most successful of these strategies have since been refined and will be published in the New Year in a new student programme called Lift Off.

Learners enjoy secondary school 

Youngsters who took part in the project ended up using more positive and confident language around the prospect of moving school. When interviewed again by researchers during their first term in secondary education, in October this year, the learners who had participated showed enjoyment and satisfaction from being at secondary school and used positive language about their experiences. The comparison group of those who hadn't participated, on the other hand, used language that expressed their relief that moving schools had ‘not been as bad’ as they had expected.

Although the sample of pupils was statistically small, the number of children who felt excited about the move to secondary school was 56% for the pupils who participated in the project compared with 45% who hadn’t. They number of those who felt ‘confident and/or happy’ about the prospect was 33% and 21% respectively.

Children who participated in the project were more likely to look forward to learning new things – 16% compared with 6% who hadn’t taken part. The numbers who were now looking forward to making new friends was 18% and 0% respectively.

Peter Rose, Director of Tiller Research, who evaluated the study in conjunction with academics at the University of Wolverhampton, said: “What surprised us about the findings was the consistently positive impact of the project on participants, even though schools approached the exercise differently and often in quite creative ways, and spent different amounts of time on it.

“What became clear to us was that developing children’s self-efficacy and self-esteem had an enabling effect on their ability to cope with potentially difficult situations.”

Better academic performance

Tash Bonehill, Assistant Head of Northlands Primary School, Rugby, one of the participating schools, said the project had encouraged pupils to try new things, and ignited an interest in after-school clubs and competitions. The school had also seen a rise in its SATs results, particularly in English and maths, which it attributed to Building for Progression.

Jenny Drake, Year 6 Teacher at Boughton Leigh Junior School, Rugby, another of the pilot schools, said: “Our learners flourished through the programme and developed confidence, self-esteem and communication skills.  The resilience and determination of the pupils also improved – we noticed they did not give up easily with challenges and activities.”

Meanwhile, Alison Davies, Headteacher of The Avon Valley School, Rugby, the secondary school involved in the project, said: "We found that the pupils who took part were better able to verbalise their feelings and talk about their individual, personal characteristics. They also had a better understanding of how to take control over their learning and development.”

Falling through the gap

Professor Tim Brighouse, one of the UK’s leading educationalists, who spoke at the conference, said: "We are currently in a difficult time in education, with too many young people falling through the gaps, and I can think of no bigger gap than the transition between primary and secondary, an age-old problem for which we still have few answers.

"The ASDAN project is a thoughtful and useful exercise in examining existing practice and devising ways of losing fewer young people in those gaps, through the use of an individualised approach.”

Liz Garton, Director of The Progression Trust, said: "We know that many young people become disaffected and hugely underachieve in our education system. We need to engage and motivate them better so they can take control of their learning and achieve their ambitions."

Kath Grant, Project Leader with ASDAN, said: “We undertook this project to try to meet a real need in tackling the challenges associated with transition and as part of our wider remit to eliminate educational disadvantage where it exists.

“If we get transition wrong, children may never properly integrate into secondary school, leading to wasted potential, reduced attendance and overall lower progress.”

For more information on the project or the Lift Off programme, please contact Karen Hudspith:

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