like others on the LIPSS course, was attended by practising teachers
and headteachers from ten different countries in Europe. Experience
was wide and problems were found to be common.
To start participants thinking we undertook a structured
small group activity in which everyone shared what they remembered
about their own transition, considering such things are
- Were you anxious or worried
about changing school?
- What were you looking forward to?
- Did you visit your new school before you started?
- Did you visit other secondary schools while you
were at primary school?
- Did you meet any of your new teachers before
- Did your primary school prepare you for the move?
- Can you remember how you felt on the first day
at secondary school?
Responses varied a great deal.
Some colleagues, like myself, saw their new school for the first
time the day they started there. Most of us admitted to having had
many worries about going to the new school that we told no-one about.
Almost no-one felt that teachers had prepared them for the move
Today we know that poor transition may lead to failure
or slowed progress at secondary level and it is important that all
pupils are properly prepared for this new phase in their lives.
In the UK we stress the importance of PASTORAL CARE in our schools.
By other names this is regarded as important all over Europe. Effective
pastoral care means looking at the welfare and well-being of the
whole child, not just her academic needs.
At transition time schools' pastoral care programmes
must take account of the fact that
- Transfer is an important
RITE OF PASSAGE
- Rites of passage need PREPARATION AND CELEBRATION
- Transfer is part of the JOURNEY TOWARDS ADULTHOOD
- A journey needed PREPARATION AND PLANNING
- The child is entitled to ADULT SUPPORT AND GUIDANCE
at every stage of this journey.
Schools must, therefore, ensure that all children
receive their entitlement by having planned programmes of INDUCTION
INTO SECONDARY EDUCATION.
PLANNING INDUCTION PROGRAMMES:
There are three stages to setting up and delivering induction
||WHO IS INVOLVED?
|1. In primary school
|During at least the last
|Primary school teachers/family
|2. In primary school
||During the last few
weeks spent there
|3. In secondary school
|First weeks at the new
Furthermore inductions programmes must be
- Planned and structured
- Not left to chance
- Be part of the school's published teaching
- Take account of children's actual hopes and
- Bring the primary and secondary schools
to a closer working relationship
CHILDREN'S HOPES AND FEARS:
It is vital to deal with the real worries of
our children, to reassure them and to support their hopes about
Over the years I have drawn up lists of what
children most frequently tell me they are scared about. During the
workshop we considered everyone's experience and discovered that
the same fears cross geographical borders! Among the most frequently
expressed worries are:
- Being bullied
- Getting lost/not knowing where to go
- Working being too hard
- Missing old friends/not making new friends
- Missing old teachers
- Having new teachers who are too strict/unkind
- Getting into trouble
- Teachers not knowing about me
- Too much/too hard homework
- Not knowing the rules
- Being the smallest/youngest
- How will the older/bigger pupils treat
One myth which seems to haunt all our children is
the question: 'Miss/Sir, is it true that they put your head down
the toilet on the first day?' And I have frequently been asked:
'Is there really a haunted classroom?' and 'Is it true there's a
ghost on the staircase?' These, of course, are manifestations of
a deep fear of the unknown and what it might hold.
Similarly, lists of what children look forward to
are the same everywhere; the most frequently expressed are: I'm
really looking forward to
- Being more grown up
- Making new friends
- Learning new things
- Meeting new teachers
- Learning a language for the first time (in the
- The Science Laboratories
- The dinners (UK!)
Induction programmes can and do deal effectively
with most of the above.
GOOD PRACTICE IN THE FINAL PRIMARY YEAR
The workshop shared ideas taken from a programme
of work I have developed in my own area. Key strands are:
1. WHO AM I? - A CELEBRATION OF MYSELF. This deals with
- An awareness of one's own strengths and weaknesses
- Achievements as a learner
- Other achievements in school and life
2. CHANGE - a consideration of change as
a natural part of life
3. PREPARATION FOR LEAVING PRIMARY SCHOOL
- Missing people and places
- Dealing with loss
- Celebrating changes and rites of passage
4. FACTS ABOUT SECONDARY SCHOOL
- Differences and similarities
- Visits to secondary schools and from secondary
- Work on timetables/subjects/expectations
- Writing to secondary Penfriends
- Using secondary pupil mentors
5. INVOLVING PARENTS/ACKNOWLEDGING ANXIETIES
More details about this work may be found in LIPSS Manual 2.
GOOD PRACTICE - THE FINAL PRIMARY WEEKS
Primary schools will develop this according
to their local situation.
- It may be that more intensive work on aspects
of the above programme can be done.
- It may be a time when the last primary year group
can start to prepare the next year group down for what will happen
to them in the future (i.e. in UK Year Six pupils can start to
prepare Year Fives; in Germany and Austria Year Four pupils can
work with Year Threes).
- Some primary schools alter their timetable and
make the situation for their leaver pupils more like a secondary
school (e.g. moving from room to room, using 'guest' teachers
from nearby secondary schools, etc.
- The primary school will also want to work on
preparations for a LEAVING CEREMONY - which should involve parents.
Meanwhile the secondary school staff will come into
stronger focus. The programme should include at least these opportunities:
- A planned visit to the primary pupils in their
school from a secondary teacher who will have most responsibility
- An opportunity for the child and her family to
visit the secondary school for a private meeting, to give and
- An opportunity for the family to attend the secondary
school for a 'social event' to meet the teacher, pupils and parents
of the child's future class.
- An opportunity for the child to spend a
full day at her new school, with typical lessons, a guided tour,
etc. (see below - 'Taster Day')
A TYPICAL 'TASTER DAY'
Workshop participants worked very creatively
on devising what might constitute the most useful kind of Taster
Day for schools in their own area, based on a list of key considerations.
Results varied slightly, but the model I have frequently run and
which I shared with the group took account of most people's ideas.
It is worth mentioning that I frequently received children from
35+ different primary schools, so bringing them all together was
vital! Our day was as follows:
The day was 5.5 hours long, including lunch
break. The personnel needed to run the day were senior staff, form
tutors, subject teacher AND 25/30 responsible older pupils who would
act as mentors, guides and friends to the new pupils. These students
were allocated 4 or 5 to each class.
9.05 Arrive - often with parents; pupils already knew their class,
so would know which group to join
9.15 Assembly - parents welcome to stay
9.30 - 11.15 Tutorial time *programme below
11.15 - 12.15 Sample specialist lesson 1
12.15 - 1.00 Lunch
1.00 - 2.00 Sample specialist lesson 2
2.00 - 2.30 Debriefing session with senior staff
*Tutorial time would include
- Introductions and name games
- Getting to know the building (tour or 'treasure
- Introduction to school's rules and protocols
- Fears in a Hat (a good way of getting children
to express their fears anonymously and have them dealt with by
- How are you getting to school? Dealing with the
journey and allowing children to make arrangements to meet their
- Class photograph - this would be taken and printed
up so that everyone had a copy to take home
- Question time
GOOD PRACTICE - FIRST DAYS AT SECONDARY
Again we discovered that there is a wide variety
of practice for children just starting at secondary - ranging from
- those schools who plunge the newcomers
into their 'normal' programme from the moment they arrive
- through those who devise a special and
separate programme for them for at least two weeks or even longer
- to those who spend a fair amount of time
during week one testing the pupils!
We agreed that there are some key points to consider
when planning the actual induction into the secondary school which
- Should the new pupils have the school to themselves
on the first day?
- How soon should they begin their normal timetable?
- Should they spend a few days with only one teacher
before the normal programme starts?
- Should the programme for the first term be more
like arrangements at primary school?
- Did everyone have the same preparation at primary
- Are there some pupils who will need more support
in the early days than others?
- Who attended summer schools during the holidays?
However the secondary induction programme is arranged
- Ensure the pupils are familiar with the buildings
- Ensure they are familiar with the timetable
- Introduce key teachers
- Use any resources the children have brought with
them (e.g. work portfolios)
- Deal again with any remaining fears/worries
- Ensure children know 'What to do if
- Plan future contact with their old primary schools
- Not delay the experience of normal lessons
If much of this seems little more than 'common
sense', that is because it is! However, there are very few pupils
indeed, even today, who have all the positive experiences outlined
above. As teachers we have the responsibility to do all we can,
through careful and professional planning, to ensure that children
are properly and continuously supported in making a good transition.