Hands up – how many of you who are secondary teachers knew that March 1st (2nd this year) is the day that children, families and schools find out about which schools the year 6 children are offered? Some of you may have seen that my good friend Ellie Grout (https://groutysguide.co.uk/) and I have started the write a column in the TES all about transition. As a previous KS3 pastoral lead I was aware of this day and have recognised it’s importance for a number of years. As a curriculum lead however, Ellie had not been. I think this common across secondary schools. I think that’s wrong though! There are so many things that secondary schools can do from day one to not only help the pupils but the staff! I also wonder how many of you are going through this yourself and are, possibly for the first time, and seeing a very different side to the story and are starting to think about things differently? The age old question in education – Is what we do good enough for my child?
If you have read my previous 2 posts about this you will see I have made many suggestions that will help the children. I stand by all of those, but I also believe that if secondary schools play the right game, staff and children will inevitably win! There are several things that all departments can now start to do to ensure they have a head start when the children begin their journey with you in September. The organisation in your school will determine who engages in most of these but I firmly believe they are all possible and above all, beneficial.
- Contact the children. I have seen this done in a number of ways over the years. Postcards, introductory letters 1)from current year 7’s 2) from senior leaders 3) from the headteacher. All of these make your new cohort feel part of the school form day 1.
- Contact the schools. Most of you will already have good relationships with the schools you usually work with. This time, however, you can talk about children! Start the ball rolling, get as much data as possible so that you can hit the ground running in September. Find ways of learning all about the children, not just as numbers but as people. Many times over the years experts have said how relationships matter, I have written about it myself. Imagine how much stronger a relationship you will have if you know about the child before hand. If this can be in a common format across all schools in your area you will find you have an even better response from you local primary schools.
- Start to share curriculum maps. I posted before about how it would be important for primaries to share their curriculum maps with secondary schools so that they can begin to understand what the children have studied previously. This goes both ways, imagine how much more informed the primary school staff, and therefore children, can be if they know where their learning will take them in the future. This could so easily be extended to sharing moderation, resources and dare I say it, cross phase planning.
- Visit parents! The key here is visit! Not just inviting them in. We all know how difficult it is to engage some parents. To go to them creates a bridge of security for them. For some, the most appropriate place to do this is in their current primary schools. For others, and we can learn from Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) here, it may be more advantageous to visit them in their own home. There is a reason this is common practice in the Early Years, it is because it works!
I know that many of you reading this will be happy to tick off most of these things, knowing that your school already engage in some or all of them. Do you though? Can you? Should you? Many schools have a transition lead of some description, with a varying level of responsibility in school. My argument here though is that the children will work with an awful lot more than one person when they join the school. Having one friendly face is all well and good but what about the other 50-100 staff there might be? One face in a sea of many will be difficult to find. Every department has a part to play in transition. If you want it to be successful and you want to avoid the ‘wasted years’ then prior learning knowledge is key! Yes, you can start with the National Curriculum but nothing beats knowing exactly what (at least the majority) of your future pupils have been studying. I’ve said it before, the children forget what they have done, and yet we completely trust them when they say they have never studied X, Y or z before. How powerful (and time ultimately time saving) would it be to know the truth!