What the pandemic has taught us about transition (and have we actually learned the lessons)?

Photo by Pavel Danilyuk on Pexels.com

We have all seen the chart that tells us when each year group had their last full year in school, and of course by school I mean full time face to face teaching in the same room as one another. What a wonderful time that was! It is worth bearing in mind that the youngest 3 year groups in a secondary school and the eldest 3 in a primary school have in no way had the ‘usual’ amount of time to prepare for the big change. If we take the removal of SATS off the table for now, this is a huge gap in their development and so much adult led preparation has simply not taken place. I have to add, this is through circumstance and not ill intention!

When I have been fortunate enough to talk to teachers, without fail and without year group prejudice, the lack of maturity and the ‘not quite ready for this year group’ has been a common worry when talking about children. So, as a system, what have we done to make sure that the transition between 2 phases is as successful as it can be. I have no experience of working in middle schools, and very little of Infant to Junior but I would be quite confident in saying that transition to and from all Key Stages has been tough for the last few years. I am here to ask, have we learned from that? Are there any Covid keeps or have most of the changes been thrown out as soon as possible.

During a visit to a school back in September 2020 I was talking to a member of staff about the concerns they had for year 7 children when they got ‘let out’ into the real world of secondary school. The children’s entire experience of it so far had seen them with their own toilets, their own section of school, separate lunchtimes, breaktimes, start and end of school times. I wonder how many of us recognise these systems and how many of them have remained in place. Following a long discussion about this, we both came to the realisation that all of those systems have actually helped the children’s ease into their new surroundings. Top this environmental security off with far less social pressure surrounding the ‘Big Kids’ and how they behave around the younger ones and become (occasionally unwilling) role models. In theory the children’s who have experienced this start to secondary schools have been through a full induction year, a solid academic year to learn the ropes of the immensely different way of working. The chance to slowly but surely understand the ethos of the schools and dare I say it have some ownership of a classroom! Admit it, how many of you squirmed at that thought? How many of you were thrilled to be back, based in your own classroom when the children’s move around to come to you. In a previous (Pre Covid) post ‘What does Big School look like Part 2’ I actually suggested that in the early days of secondary school the children could stay in one place and the staff move around. This was met with horror from those teachers I spoke to about it but I wonder, if now we are seeing the benefits of this for our children. The children I have spoken to have certainly valued this way of working, appreciating that at least one thing still feels like what they are used to. We need to remember that induction is important, even for adults! I can speak from experience, having recently started a new job. I have to admit I did feel a little bit like the children moving phases:

I had already had an interview (Induction day) so had met the people I would be working for (new teachers), I knew at least 3 others who were there that interview day and I had spoken would be there on my first day (children from other schools) but I didn’t know exactly who would be there and I also knew that there would be lots of other people there during my first few weeks that I wouldn’t have met before.

I was very grateful when my new employer built in a solid 2 weeks of induction to prepare me and my new team, giving us the opportunity to learn the new ropes and start to develop a new way of working together.

When framed in a way that compares feelings of adults and children, should we be considering some of these Covid keeps that have actually supported the children’s move through phases rather than hindered. If our children are not emotionally ready for this move, should we be in such a rush to go back to how it was before?

I don’t usually like to refer to Ofsted as a reason to do anything in schools but this reference in the September 2021 update sums up everything that we should have learned and considered for the children since the start of the pandemic.

inspectors will seek to understand how the school adapted and prioritised the curriculum from September 2020.

Even though this references the curriculum (and there will be a further post on that very soon!) I stand by my deep rooted believe that in order to make sure that the children transition well between phases, we should be learning form some of the changes made as a result of the pandemic and absolutely keep those that, in hindsight, was a positive experience for those who matter most – the children.

In conclusion – I ask again, what has the Pandemic taught us, and (more importantly) have we actually learned anything?