Session 254: Transition

Thursday 28th May 2015

pablo (1)It’s that time of year when many teachers across the land have completed all their assessments, filled in the relevant spreadsheets, inputted all the exciting data, and our pupils are ready for the next stage of their education. To some, this means a completely new school altogether – for others, it may mean going from one area of the school to another. No matter what, the transition phase is an important opportunity to help students smoothly move on. #UKEdChat sessions have previously explored this topic (see Session 84 and Session 207), but this session focused on the following questions:

  1. How could primary and secondary schools better prepare pupils for transition?
  2. How could a secondary school develop closer relationships with its feeder primary schools?
  3. How do we ensure a smooth transition in foreign language learning between KS2 and KS3 when in many cases there are no links between schools?
  4. Do you have links with primary/secondary schools in your area to prepare students for the transition?
  5. What are the key issues that pupils face at the KS2/3 transition?
  6. What is your perception about what happens to pupil progress at the transition? – Do you have to revisit work done in the previous year, due to the holiday slump?


Moving from the safety and security of one environment to an unknown entity can be a huge challenge for many adults, so for pupils to move up each year to a different classroom, or even a new and big school can be a daunting proposition – even if they are able to mask their fears. Although the environment may change, for many the transition is a journey which they make with friends and peers, and open up new opportunities and challenges which remove us from our comfort zones thus helping us develop as people.

So, although UKEdChat has explored this topic previously, it is always timely to explore the issues faced by pupils, and look at how schools and teachers can help prepare for the transitions which take place over the summer. The first issue explored for this particular session asked, how could primary and secondary schools better prepare pupils for transition?

Martin Burrett kicked off the responses by reminding us that, “Transition is a continual issue which schools can refine and improve. Devil is in the detail” and “For transition to be successful takes excellent communication, time & understanding on all sides. All sometimes in short supply.” There was a repeated call that there should be greater integration of secondary teachers going into primary feeder schools, and vice-versa, but also an idea that perhaps primary school teachers should visit their former pupils once in secondary to see if they have settled in well, as well as communicating to colleagues about the personalities they are enjoying. Leah Sharp agreed, “…more conversation (including listening) from both pri/2ndry teachers to each other.” Amjad Ali felt, “Transition is about communication. Creating links & sustaining them. Creating job shares help too.”

How secondary schools can develop closer relationships with feeder primary schools was next on the agenda, with Phil Ruse declaring it’s, “Definitely a challenge. Huge amount of work goes in. Taster days. Step up days. Staff & Students go out to primaries to make links”. Matt Roberts shared a wonderful idea, “In one school I was placed in, a small group of Yr10/11 came and taught a 30min Science session to Year 5’s”. Cherryl-kd suggested, “Send secondary teachers to teach in Y6, especially now the curriculum has higher expectations.” Another idea was shared by MrMVenton, “before transition days, I visit each of my partner primaries with 4 ex year 6s now 7s to do a q&a”. Working with Year 8’s is proving successful with Leah Sharp who added that she is… “Currently working on project with Y8 class – Y6s commented that they’re less worried about move due to experiencing their work”

In relation to the MfL (Languages) question, Brigit Smith agreed that it’s a, “good question. Pupils will be turned off languages if they have to start again at A1 level at secondary school”, whereas Jonathan Bailey added, “MfL extremely difficult as different schools have different expectations and teaching load. More structured approach.” Leah Sharp also noted that, with secondary schools potentially offering different languages that, “Must be tricky to start in same place in Y7”, although probable that everyone is starting off at the same point, therefore easier to manage. With regards to languages, Brigit Smith concluded, “having visited a number of secondary schools, teachers said that they gave no connection to primary teachers. Real pity.”

This took us nicely to the next question which explored the links with primary/secondary schools in your area to prepare students for the transition. Amjad Ali argued that, “Links must be long term. So not just rekindled in the summer term”, and mrmventon shared, “one thing we ask our partners to do is to recommend the Summer school invitees.” Stephen Logan highlighted that the…” Key to primary transition is partnership. Working together and understanding the needs of the pupils transferring.”

Gary King

contributed that… “We mustn’t overlook importance of parental transition, sometimes coming from a small primary to large secondary can be daunting”, and “Building sustainable relationships with primaries will ensure transition begins in Year 5 or before, collaboration is key”. We challenged this by arguing, “That’s true, but perhaps secondary teachers can take a leaf out of how primary colleagues communicate with parents?” and that “From experience, primary = about the whole child, whereas secondary = test scores”, although we acknowledged that, “secondary teachers have a considerable number of pupils to teach over a year. Gary King agreed, “We have so much to learn from our primary colleagues and this relationship must be cultivated” and that “accountability measures ultimately mean that this is the focus for secondary”. We made it clear that we were not, “Not blaming the teachers or school. It’s the system.”

Click here to view/download image as PDF

The penultimate question asked about the key issues that pupils face at the KS2/3 transition. Some key issues include:

  • workload, friendships, scary teachers, getting lost, homework (Leah Sharp)
  • changing lessons, teachers and unsupervised time! (Music Teacher)
  • getting lost, missing lunch, getting detentions, homework, friendships (mrmventon) Funnily enough no concerns about attainment or progress…
  • Size of school, making new friends, organisation of themselves are issues. (Jonathan Bailey)
  • The logistics of transition provide biggest challenge. 1 teacher to 14 teachers. Different expectations & learning environments (Phil Ruse)
  • Lack of independence, over-confidence, lack of confidence, over-supported at KS2, isolation, need 4 consistency, unrealistic level (Miss Row)

Finally, the session concluded by asking: What is your perception about what happens to pupil progress at the transition? – Do you have to revisit work done in the previous year, due to the holiday slump?

Miss Row

commented, “Get them involved straight away – how do you want YOUR new school to be? What do you want from me and your peers? Show me!”, and Paul M shared, “Just wondering about the ‘holiday slump’. Research suggests #NIre schools do very well, yet their pupils get 9 weeks off!” Who would vote for that? ;0)

Remember, you can download a free transition (PDF) guide supporting the change from primary to secondary. Click here for information.



  • Resource: Preparing Primary Pupils for Secondary School (PDF)

  • This session was supported by AQA

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The Editorial Account of UKEdChat, managed by editor-in-chief Colin Hill, with support from Martin Burrett from the UKEd Magazine. Pedagogy, Resources, Community.

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