The UK Position
Across the United Kingdom
there is considerable variation in the systems and curriculum during
the ages of compulsory education. In recent years there has been high
quality work and research regarding transition between primary and secondary
phases in Scotland. These experiences are being used by the partners
and in particular the research of Bob Blackledge. This study however,
focuses on the experiences of two clusters of schools in England, which
system currently shares the same legal framework as Wales.
In summary children in England
and Wales begin compulsory education after their fourth birthday. At
this time they follow an early years development programme focusing
on Early Learning Goals.
Following this period in
reception, children begin the programme of 11 years of compulsory education
following the National Curriculum as required statutorily. This sets
out a series of agreed programmes of study and attainment targets across
a broad range of subjects. This range at primary level includes English,
mathematics, science, ICT and R.E as core subjects and art, design technology,
geography, history, music and P.E as foundation subjects. At secondary
school a modern foreign language is also studied. There are also a number
of other aspects that are studied and that have variable status in law,
both in expectation and across phase. This includes citizenship, environmental
education, economic and industrial understanding to name but three.
The system is divided into
two distinct phases; Primary 4-11years old; Secondary 11-16 years
This however, is further
subdivided into four Key stages of which the first two are primary.
The end of each key stage is marked by national assessments (mainly
tests) that are reported locally and nationally by school.
Within this general situation
there are many variations and considerable complexity arises. Within
some areas the primary phase is divided into separate schools for Infant
pupils (4-7 years) and junior pupils (7-11). For others there is no
such division and through primary schools exist. Within some areas both
In a few areas some schools
exist that cross the normal transfer age (Middle Schools) and these
may possess children who elsewhere would be educated at primary school
alongside those who would be in the secondary phase.
Further complication exists
within the variety of contexts found in the system. Some schools are
based on religious denomination, others at the secondary level on selection
by aptitude or gender.
The Lipss project however
concerns itself with the general problems associated with transfer from
the primary to secondary phase at or about the age of 11years, and particularly
focuses on attempts to overcome the well documented problems and issues
Under achievement on transfer
Regression following transfer
Establishing a continuous curriculum
Confidence in standards
Continuity in teaching styles and methodology
Fresh start approaches
The UK Clusters
Within the project two clusters
of schools exist in two Local Education Authorities operating in quite
different contexts. Hackney is an inner London area with a high level
of social deprivation, ethnic mix, and considerable refugee levels.
Swindon is a town (seeking city status) between London and Bristol,
characterized by low unemployment, relative wealth and prosperity. Both
Hackney and Swindon contain areas with considerable contrasts that do
not match the generalizations.
A key difference between
the two areas however, is the policy on admissions and transfer. Within
Swindon there exists a system of designated schools, whereby the pupils
from a given primary school automatically transfer to a known and associated
secondary school. Parents have the right to express a preference for
an alternative school and children may and do transfer to non-designated
secondary. However, the vast majority transfer to the designated school
(over 90% in the project primary school). Within Hackney however, there
is no such system and pupils transfer from a single primary school to
many secondary schools.
As a consequence of these
differences the two projects have focused on different aspects of transfer.
The Hackney cluster has focused on the transfer of information between
phases. The Swindon clusters focus has been on the role of peer
mentoring in induction and the development of joint work in mathematics,
science, ICT and technology as the secondary school establishes its
technology college status.