What the resource is:
This is a 30 minute Teachers TV programme, which follows the work of two junior schools in Brighton and Hove as they prepare their Year 6 pupils for transfer to secondary school.
The aims of the resource:
The programme sets out to address some of the problems associated with the transfer of pupils from KS2 to KS3. These issues are explored through interviews with parents, children and teachers, and given a broader context by comments from Professors Barbara McGilchrist and Maurice Galton. The children represent a wide cross-section of pupils, including those on the gifted and talented register as well as those with special educational needs.
Key findings or focus:
The programme identifies some of the concerns about moving to secondary school, as expressed by Year 6 pupils and their parents. These include:
- making new friends
- possible bullying
- the specific needs of pupils with SEN.
It shows a range of strategies deployed by two primary schools to help children overcome their anxieties, such as opportunities for discussion with their Y6 teacher, and working with a speech and language therapist to help children identified as ‘vulnerable' with self-esteem and communication skills. The importance of equipping pupils with the ability to recognise and express their feelings is emphasised.
The programme demonstrates some examples of effective liaison between secondary schools and their feeder primary schools, including:
- meetings between a Y7 teacher and Y6 pupils
- additional visits to secondary school for pupils with SEN
- a transition booklet, begun by pupils in primary school and continued in Y7 as a bridging unit
- opportunities for able pupils in mathematics to attend sessions at a secondary school.
Two different methods of ensuring pupils establish friendship groups are explored. One secondary school allows children to choose some of the friends they want to be with in Y7, while the other makes its own decisions about class composition from information supplied by primary teachers.
The programme indicates that secondary transfer is an anxious time for parents as well and shows how they share many of the same fears as their children, particularly about the ability to make new friends. It demonstrates ways in which schools work with parents as partners in the transition process, through meetings at school and in the local pub, and during a workshop at secondary school for parents of children with SEN.
The quality, authority and credibility of the resource:
The importance of effective transfer between primary and secondary schools in securing pupils' progress in all aspects of their learning (social, emotional and academic) is well documented (for example, Galton, Gray & Rudduck 2003, Ofsted 2007). Given the length of the programme, it is impossible to cover all of these, and the focus remains on addressing emotional and social issues, particularly that of forming friendship groups. A particular strength of the resource is the way we hear children speak for themselves about their worries and anxieties, presenting an insight into what most concerns them.
The programme makes the strong point that a child's ability to make new friends and cope with the challenges presented by moving to secondary school can be supported by strategies at primary level. The fact that children "developed new friendships and improved their self-esteem and confidence" is recognised as one of the definitions of a successful transition (What Makes a Successful Transition from Primary to Secondary School?, p.14). The concentration on children with SEN is also relevant, as research indicates that they are likely to have more problems with transition and are at greater risk of bullying (ibid, p iv).
Ways in which teachers from the primary and secondary schools are seen to liaise in the video reflect how important this is for effective transition from KS2 to KS3. Recent guidance from the National Strategies goes so far as to say: "A pupil's best chance of continuing or accelerating their progress after transfer comes through collaboration between their primary and middle/secondary schools" (DCSF 2008, p.6). However, the examples in the video relate largely to visits by teachers concerned with pastoral care issues. There is little evidence of the way in which these schools are addressing the vital area of academic continuity, identified by Ofsted (2002) as a major area of concern. References to ‘moving on books' and lessons at secondary school for able mathematicians fall far short of the need for rigorous assessment, detailed reporting on pupils' progress, professional dialogue and curriculum continuity that is needed to ensure pupils make adequate progress from Y7 onwards. Moreover, the schools in the video appear to be operating individually, so we have no knowledge of the transition framework, if any, provided by the partner schools or the LA. Ofsted (2002) was critical of the way practice varied from school to school at the time, and a broad collaboration is seen as essential to successful transfer (DCSF 2008, p.6).
The emphasis on listening to parents' concerns is sound, and it is instructive how their worries mirror closely those of the children. The video demonstrates ways in which the sample schools are involving parents in the transition process. This is recognised as a vital way to strengthen transfer (DCSF, 2008, p.6).
Interjections from McGilchrist and Galton at pertinent points during the video are effective in broadening the context of the case study and highlighting more general issues. On the whole, the video presents some aspects of good practice, but the many omissions make it less effective as an exemplar of effective transition.
The implications for ITE tutors/mentors:
The programme would serve as a starting point for ITE tutors in both primary and secondary courses to examine practice with students, either in-session or as pre-session viewing. However, as it covers only some of the issues associated with KS2/KS3 transition, tutors need to be aware of its limitations. The programme was published in 2006, so it is important to place it in the context of more recent research, particularly DCSF (2008) and examples of present good practice in placement schools.
The video has strong links with SEN, which makes it of value to relevant primary ITE courses. Its emphasis on establishing friendship groups and the social aspects of transition would also promote discussion in PSHE courses, particularly the sections where children are helped to articulate their problems (starting 5:17) and the teacher responding to a parent's concern about bullying (starting 21:08).
The relevance to ITE students:
Some ITE students, especially those at the beginning of their studies, may have difficulty contextualising educational theories about transition and government directives regarding school policy and practice. This programme provides an effective case study, giving a voice to the parties concerned. In particular, hearing children and parents talk about their anxieties and seeing teachers in action will enable students to relate theory to practice. It would, therefore, serve as a useful introduction to the topic, provided it is supported with further reading and wider school experience.
The following might be useful to read in conjunction with this resource:
Teachers and students who want to research the topic in more detail will find extensive bibliographies, with search terms for further research, in the TTRB E-Librarian responses, especially: Transition primary secondary and Transition Primary.
The Teachers TV site offers other programmes to watch related to this topic, as part of the School Matters series, including First days at Secondary and A Taste of Secondary.
DCSF (2008) Strengthening transfers and transitions: Partnerships for progress. Great Britain.
Galton, M., Gray, J. & Ruddock, J. (2003) Transfer and Transitions in the Middle Years of Schooling (7-14): Continuities and Discontinuities in Learning. Research Report RR443, Nottingham DfES.
Ofsted (2002) Changing schools - effectiveness of transfer arrangements at Age 11.
Ofsted (2007) Annual Report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector.