Transition from Primary School to Secondary School

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Transition from Primary School to Secondary School

So, SATs are over, and the next big step for Year 6 (apart from catching up with any foundation subjects that took a bit of a hit with the build up to the tests) is their transition to secondary school.

Thankfully this has changed a bit over the years. Cast your mind back to your school days. What was it like for you; preparing for the move to the big school? How does it compare with the arrangements you have in place for current Year 6 children?

My youngest daughter is in Year 6 and has her first induction days at secondary school very soon. I know her experience will be very different to my own. When I reached the end of primary school it was one evening visit to the local comprehensive to which I had been assigned, based solely on proximity. End of. No appeals or any of that parental choice.

My Transition to Secondary school

When looked around the huge school I remember being impressed initially. We were shown a Van de Graaff generator and we all had a go at making our hair stand up on end. This was good timing because this was the mid-eighties, so hair was pretty big anyway. But that chance to impersonate the members of Bon Jovi was the only time any of us we ever saw that equipment through the whole seven years we spent there. I realised when I left that they must have wheeled it out for every induction event before carefully covering it back up with a cloth for the next twelve months.

It was almost the same with the rats we saw in the corner of one of the labs in trays above a fridge. There was a burst of whispered awe and disgust on the induction visit, and I remember wondering why some were dyed blue and some pink. Was it a gender stereotyping thing? I needn’t have worried though. No one saw the rats again either for at least five years and then it was only if you took ‘A’ level biology.

And the last memory of that visit was the climbing wall at the end for the sports hall. They had either had some very dodgy builders (perhaps they’d been an early pilot for PFI?) or the whole wall had some bricks missing and some bricks sticking out to make an artificial rock face. We were told we would have the chance to use this and that seemed brilliant. What 11 year old boy wouldn’t want to go to a school where 25% of a building was built deliberately for climbing up? But again, it turned out to be a long wait until we got to use that. Once we were in the Sixth Form my mate Haggis and I were allowed to run the after-school climbing club for the fifth year, which amounted to clipping them to the ropes and yelling, “Reach to your left! To your left! Now use your foot!” at kids almost as spotty as ourselves. It was an hour and a half of vertical Twister every Tuesday.

So that was it for ‘transition’ back in the day.

The First Day at Secondary School

After that, the next time I stepped foot in the school was on the first day in September. The two mile walk was daunting enough, lugging a huge bag and flopping along in shoes that were too big, “for growing room”, without Steven Telchadder, who was two years above us, telling me and my nervous friends that ‘Blazer kids’ were always, without a doubt, bog-washed on the first day. This was a huge dilemma. Blazers were the school uniform. We had been told that uniform had to be worn at all times under threat of dire punishment from all the teachers. And this was back in the days of corporal punishment. We had heard that every teacher had their favourite weapon of choice be it slipper, cane or cat’o’nine tails probably, and a favourite part of the anatomy to aim for: bum, back of the thighs or outstretched hand. It was all good character building stuff, really it was…

But now we were being told that wearing part of that very uniform would condemn us to being bog-washed within minutes of arrival. So as you can imagine we weren’t too happy when we finally got to the school and our small band tentatively merged into the other small groups of baggy clothed and gleaming haired new arrivals making their way to the hall, whilst frantically trying to work out how quickly we could slip out of, or into, the cursed blazers dependent on audience. Happy days indeed, and almost certainly not ensuring we were in the right frame of mind to begin the next phase of our education.

I was back at a secondary school in mid-May watching my daughter take part in a local cluster netball competition. (I obviously took a blazer just in case, but left it in the car for emergencies only – it’s not like I’ve been scarred for life or anything.)

Possible Concerns of a Primary School Student

In between netball games, my daughter and her friends were discussing their own forthcoming transition to from primary school to secondary school. They were very positive about many things, but for your information, here are the main things they are concerned about:

  • Getting lost.
  • Who to talk to if they have a problem.
  • Missing the bus home or getting on the wrong bus and ending up miles away.
  • Not being in friendship groups.
  • Subjects they have not been taught before, especially languages and the perception of ‘separate’ sciences.
  • Big kids (nothing specific on this; just that the other students will be big, very big, and that is daunting)

Nothing new there really, but maybe worth asking other current Year 6 children if they have any particular concerns.

And when the Year 7s pop back in to our primary school to visit in September on their way home, all grown up and sporting the new blazer, perhaps ask them how transition was for them.

You could ask:

  • Is there anything that could be improved?
  • Was your induction day/s sufficient in giving you a realistic idea of your new school? 
  • Did your induction day ease your nerves?
  • Anything to report back to the primary school from your secondary school?
  • Is secondary school really as scary as first thought? 

Just to ensure their own memories of the time aren’t just based on resources they will never use, a sense of dread and a few weirdly coloured rats.

Continue the Conversation on the Transition from Year 6 to Secondary…

For more information on the transition from primary school to secondary school, keep an eye on the Focus Education blog, find me on twitter @FocusTn or get in touch with the Focus Education office on 01457 821 818. If you would like further support in any area of your school, you can enquire about our consultancy here.

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