Knowledge Bank - Leadership

Transfer to secondary school

We're preparing for Year 6 transfer. As year 6 leader I'm responsible for this and wondered if you had any ideas for making it successful

Transfer, transition, moving them up, on or just away. By this time in the school year staff are starting to feel jaded and there is plenty of potential for the fall outs to start. As year 6 leader you have your work cut out. You’ve just completed SATs are trying to find ways of keeping year 6 engaged until the final bell and then the phone calls start, ‘can we come and visit’? 

What’s perhaps essential is that you have planned for this. Year 6/7 transition should have as high a profile in the year plan as SATs. If at all possible, management time should be allocated to it. It perhaps helps if every year group take transition seriously and have opportunity to share their knowledge about pupils with the staff in the year ahead. This raises the profile of transition and its importance generally in the school. 

No doubt one of your main roles is advising secondary school colleagues about peers, the combinations that work and those that don’t. Of course, it is beneficial for pupils to visit their secondary school before the end of term and most authorities organise some kind of transfer day. Shared projects, books and problem-solving activities that pupils take with them as a bridge between the two phases can also be useful. Just make sure you are clear exactly what the secondary schools’ expectations are. 

A useful leadership briefing you might read is ‘Successful Transition from Primary to Secondary School’. This DCSF document looks at the transition experience and found that one of the main features of a successful transition was the amount of help provided by the secondary school. Perhaps one to make sure your secondary school colleagues have read too. 

If you’re looking for some practical materials, The Briefcase 6 ‘Pupil Transfer’ booklet could be used with your year 6 pupils either as the focus of lessons or as independent study in school or at home. It provides pupils with opportunities to reflect on themselves as well as to collect information about their new school and ways in which they might prepare. 

Not all of your pupils will find transition as traumatic. For some, it will be an eagerly awaited opportunity to become those little fish in the big pond again. But for some others it might be a move almost too great to contemplate. You will know who these pupils are and give them extra attention and support. I include below links to some articles that focus on the needs of particular groups on transfer. 

Perhaps one aspect of transition you might not have considered is actually how much the teachers on either side know about each other’s schools and phases of education. It’s not always just about inducting the pupils, it can also be about inducting the teachers. 

There can be many misunderstandings between primary and secondary staff that frequently come to a head at transition time. You know the one. Secondary school staff ring up at what seems like a moment’s notice and ask to come into the primary school to spend an hour talking to classteachers. Never is the difference in timetabling more evident and bad feeling more likely to emerge. 

It is very important that this situation is avoided. Cross-phase understanding is discussed in the article Professional Development To Improve Transition. It’s compromise on both sides. If secondary schools can release some cover from their own staffing, that’s really appreciated and equally primary schools have to recognise that secondaries have many schools to visit at this time. Trying to be as accommodating as possible usually results in reciprocal consideration. 

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