Concluding remarks concerning the case studies

In document What makes a successful transition from primary to secondary school? (Page 63-65)

Chapter 5: Case studies of “well-settled” children: enhancing the findings

5.6 Concluding remarks concerning the case studies

Successful transitions are based on schools looking after pupils as individuals. A great deal of information is exchanged about the incoming Year 6-to-Year 7 student. All possible sources of this information - primary school, parents, child - are made use of by the secondary school at several times throughout the transition process, not just once or twice. Prior to transition there are several set occasions when information is collected, for instance school visits (secondary teacher/s to primary school, primary children to secondary school), face-to-face interviews between teachers, and between teacher, parents and child. The overriding purpose of the collection of information about the child by the secondary school teacher is to enable the creation of balanced, happy, interactive and cohesive form tutor groups in Year 7. It is planned so that the pupils may have an old friend from primary but can also make new friends and receive support from numerous sources, principally teachers and peer mentors. The more that is known about each child, the better the secondary school can accommodate procedures and settings to the child. This is seen as essential to enabling all new pupils to settle in without difficulties and to engage well in academic learning at secondary school.

Conversely, a successful transition involves informing the child, in the first instance, and the parent/s, as completely as possible about transition, secondary schooling and the specific secondary school prior to transition. Both primary and secondary schools engage in special attention toward facilitating this. Primary teachers talk about changes in general and the move to secondary schooling in particular throughout Year 6, particularly after the KS2 national assessments are over in May/June and introduce more secondary school-like procedures and teaching approaches. Secondary schools establish secure links with the primary school through visits in both directions and the above-described exchange of information. The purpose is to familiarise the incoming student as fully as possible with the secondary school experience before the student arrives in Year 7. In addition, both secondary and primary schools offer unrestricted opportunities for parents to obtain information, answers to queries and the resolution of any worries surrounding transition. From both primary and secondary schools’ perspectives, transition is viewed as integrated into the curriculum and the school year. It is in no way an ‘add- on’. A great deal of time and effort is devoted to transition thus enabling a smooth settling-in to secondary schooling.

The attention given to pupils, at the individual level, means that schools with successful transition procedures do not view or treat children or their families as members of particular groups. Case study children with minority ethnic backgrounds or at lower SES levels did not report any different or more difficult transition experiences. While separate events take place for children designated with special needs or as vulnerable at the time of transition, the purposes for those events are the same as for all pupils: to gather information about the pupils and to give information to the pupils and parents about transition and the secondary school experience. They, no less than any other student, are tracked carefully until they have successfully settled in.

The Local Authority had very little direct involvement in the transition procedures of the case study schools. Activity was restricted to the school choice forms and the list of prospective pupils. Additionally, teachers unanimously reported that their transition programmes were the result of years of experience and in-school or between-school development at the teacher level. Transition was largely reviewed informally and always had as a focus how successful the various mechanisms had functioned for information exchange, diminishing stress in children and parents and increasing ease of settling in.

Although minor worries at the beginning of Year 7 about finding their way around the secondary school and making new friends were expressed by the case study pupils, these were temporary, as has been found in the literature on transition. Transition was slightly eased by moving with friends but there were structures and activities in place to make new friends which all had done.

These pupils did not experience any particular stress during transition and viewed it generally as a positive experience regardless of their gender, SES status or ethnic background.

Subject teaching and learning were viewed positively through the eyes of the pupils. What they experienced in secondary school were very helpful teachers who worked hard to ensure that they understood and learned the subject matter. The pupils appreciated the expertise of the teachers and the deepening of their own subject knowledge at secondary level. They liked hands-on aspects in lessons like History and the feeling that they were encouraged to express themselves orally and in what they produced in various subject areas. They accepted repeating lesson content in some subjects that they had done in primary school because they thought revision helped their learning and enough new material was presented to extend and deepen their knowledge. Altogether these pupils liked secondary school, secondary work and were happy with their friendships in secondary school. They appeared well-adjusted socially and academically even when they were not in top-set groups.

The only weakness observed in the study was that of continuity in teaching and curriculum between primary and secondary. This was due, in the teachers’ views, to inadequate opportunities to see and experience the teaching and learning in each other’s school. Resources and time were needed to develop interaction between the two sectors so that they could become more familiar with what and how each other worked.

To conclude, transition is successful when it is integrated fully into the primary and secondary school programmes. It is also successful when it revolves around strong communication links between the schools in all aspects of administration and curriculum. Finally, it is successful when complete information exchange mechanisms are established so that the secondary school can create a situation which is fully conducive to the individual child settling in to secondary school life and work.

In document What makes a successful transition from primary to secondary school? (Page 63-65)