Making Transition to Secondary School That Little Bit Easier

This is the time of year when year 6 pupils come up to secondary school for one or more taster days. It is an exciting time but also nerve-wracking for many children and their families.

Transition to secondary school is a rite of passage and marks a step towards adulthood. As with all landmark occasions, it can be over-whelming and children can regress emotionally and in academic terms if it is not handled well.

Research(1) describes the move from primary to secondary as ‘one of the most difficult in pupils’ educational careers’, with future academic success, ‘general sense of well-being and mental health’ all dependent on whether it is experienced positively or negatively.’

Some experts claim that pupils may even experience a degree of trauma in changing schools. Certainly, the move requires children to adapt to a much larger community where their new year group can be bigger than the whole of their primary school. They become a small fish in a very big pond. Some experts claim that pupils may even experience a degree of trauma in changing schools. Certainly, the move requires children to adapt to a much larger community where their new year group can be bigger than the whole of their primary school. They become a small fish in a very big pond.

Added to this, adolescence can make young people more self-conscious and ill at ease in social situations where they feel they are under scrutiny and the centre of attention. In short, they want to be under the radar and not draw attention to themselves in any way.

Issues children worry about

In secondary school, children will start new subjects and have different teachers who all have their own way of working, or so it seems to the new student. Now they are in unfamiliar territory and have to become more self-reliant as their friends will not necessarily be moving as a group from one lesson to the next.

According to research commissioned by the Nuffield Foundation and conducted by University College London, making friends, getting lost, being bullied, the pressure of homework and detentions are the big five, most commonly reported by children in year 6 and year 7.

The researchers believed these worries could impact negatively on new students affecting them academically, behaviourally and in terms of school bonding.

Why planners?

A planner can be a great comfort as children can keep vital information all in one place: term dates, uniform policy, homework tasks and deadlines. Many parents say if the school does not provide a planner, they will buy an academic diary or a similar product for their child.

Of course, it is so much better if all children have the same planner which is closely identified with the school as it can be used by everyone in all lessons and increases the sense of belonging.

Planners can be tailored to the individual school: traffic light cards can be used to reflect a pupils’ feelings about a subject so the teacher can check if they are on track. This is a good way for young people to let teachers know they need help without putting their hand up and risking ridicule or unwanted attention.

While some schools have extensive libraries of apps, there is evidence(2) that children are more likely to remember things they have written down. Typing may be quicker, but thinking, editing, noting down, maybe underlining and using colour coding fixes details more firmly in the memory.

Benefits

Planners make children more independent, more organised and better able to manage their time. They help to ensure that students meet their homework deadlines and learn the important life skill of planning ahead.
More specifically planners help children with:

  • target setting
  • checking their own progress
  • sharing information about school work with parents
  • being more productive

But perhaps the best thing about planners in the early months of secondary school is that they relieve anxiety. They help to put a structure on what can be a chaotic day. This way, year 7 students are not wasting brain space trying to remember what they have to do. Instead, they can get on with the tasks in hand and begin to enjoy their new school.

Great resources to support the transition

https://www.bbc.com/bitesize/tags/zh4wy9q/starting-secondary-school The BBC has a transition campaign from May 2019 which has ideas and resources for aimed at 11 and 12 year olds, their parents and teachers.

https://campaignresources.phe.gov.uk/schools/resources/transition-to-secondary-school-lesson-plan-pack Developed with teachers, this resource has a lesson plan, PowerPoint and video for teachers to use with primary pupils to discuss possible challenges and identify strategies for managing the change.

Penstripe can now provide an eight-page Student Wellbeing section for all Student Planners.  Please call 0113 231 0995 or email info@penstripe.co.uk to speak to our education team and see how your school can provide an accessible student support system right from the pages of their Student Planners.

(1) https://www.nuffieldfoundation.org/predicting-successful-and-difficult-transitions-secondary-school

(2) The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking: Pam A. Mueller and Daniel M. Oppenheimer 2014