Case study: Supporting transition

Written by: HTU | Published:

Using its Pupil Premium funding, Frederick Bird School has engaged the services of clinical and educational psychologists as part of its work to help prepare their year 6 pupils for transition to secondary school. Headteacher Christine Lockwood explains

At Frederick Bird, a larger than average primary school in Coventry, the proportion of pupils known to be eligible for free school meals is more than twice the national average and pupil mobility is very high. As part of the school’s Pupil Premium spending, we embedded one clinical psychologist and one educational psychologist within the school, providing full day support on a weekly basis.

As well as interventions with focuses on developing relationships between the school and parents, and developing the school’s autistic spectrum disorder practice, a key focus has also been centred on the transition for pupils from year 6 to secondary school.

Historically, many of the year 6 cohort arrive at the school during key stage 2 and a significant proportion of these arrive unable to speak any English. Frederick Bird identified transition for this cohort as a key area for support.



Transition

The Sutton Trust describes the transition from primary to secondary education as a potentially difficult period in the life of young people, particularly those pupils from non-privileged backgrounds.

The charity’s Premium Policies document states: “Of all the transition points facing a young person, that between primary and secondary school is often the most traumatic. Providing stability at this time could avoid a damaging loss of learning. It could also reduce absenteeism and improve engagement, enabling all pupils more effectively to access the secondary curriculum. A growing number of schools have developed ways of tackling this, providing more intensive support and better links between the two schools.”

Frederick Bird identified a number of pupils within the year 6 group who it was felt were particularly vulnerable to the potential stresses and traumas of the impending transition from primary to secondary education. In response to this, we took action to increase the levels of support provided both within the primary school environment and by strengthening links with local secondary schools in an effort to reduce any negative impact during this crucial time for year 6 pupils.

Ofsted’s 2012 Pupil Premium report also focused on the importance of transition: “We know that the transition to secondary school is a key point in a child’s education. We know that pupils who start secondary school working below Level 4 in English and mathematics often struggle to access the curriculum. We know that they typically do not make as much progress as their peers. And we know that more disadvantaged pupils are in this group.”

As such, Frederick Bird implemented a strategy around transition which incorporated two strands of support, additional to the extensive work already being carried out on a day-to-day basis by classroom teachers and support staff. The first strand focused on supporting a target group of young people who had been identified as likely to benefit from dedicated work around supporting their abilities to manage the stresses of the transition period. This would involve regular support from the psychologists.

The second strand focused on developing and strengthening links with local secondary schools to smooth the transition process.



Direct psychological work

Educational psychologist Dr Gary Lavan, in collaboration with the school’s deputy head for inclusion Natalie Franklin-Hackett, started a planned Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) group work intervention to support six target pupils identified by year 6 staff.

One of the key factors in opting for such an approach was the identified need to develop the metacognition and self-regulation capacities of the pupils. The Oxford School Improvement Pupil Premium research in 2012 found: “Teaching children strategies to motivate themselves and plan, monitor and evaluate their own learning is a well-proven, high-impact approach.”

Dr Lavan added: “Helping pupils to develop their own strategies for coping with anxiety-provoking situations can be a vital component of supporting them through what can be a very challenging time in their lives.”

CBT is a talking therapy. It has been proved to help treat a wide range of emotional and physical health conditions in adults, young people and children. CBT looks at how we think about a situation and how this affects the way we act. In turn our actions can affect how we think and feel.

Delivered over six sessions spanning the final two half-terms of 2012/13, the primary focus for the work is on helping the pupils to recognise and understand their anxieties and to develop resilience and foster healthier coping strategies.

The Oxford School Improvement report emphasises the importance of nurturing resilience factors to raise achievement and narrow the gap between children from disadvantaged families and their peers. It adds: “Another source of information is research on resilience – the factors that help disadvantaged children buck the trend and succeed in life against the odds. These factors fall into three areas: high attainment at school, strong personal and social skills, and parental support for the child’s learning.”

In addition to the group work approach, one-to-one support has also been initiated for three pupils identified by the educational psychologist as likely to benefit from more focused and intensive support around managing their anxiety.



Developing secondary links

We have also sought to increase and strengthen existing links with one local secondary school to which many of our year 6 cohort will be transitioning. This aspect of support has seen close liaison between Frederick Bird, the psychologists, and an educational psychologist from the secondary school.

To develop closer working between Frederick Bird and local secondary schools, the educational psychologist from the secondary school is working to develop a richer understanding of any additional learning support needs for an identified group of young people in year 6.

They have spent a full day at Frederick Bird completing cognitive assessments which can be used to inform planning for these pupils before they have made the transition between the schools to ensure that adequate additional support is identified and available from the moment they start year 7 in September.

A full-day of transition support, provided by staff from the secondary school will be laid on in the final half-term of the year, facilitated by a learning mentor visiting Frederick Bird School. Supplementary to this work, discussions have been held regarding the provision of learning mentor support to be made available for any additional input for any pupils identified as requiring extra support.



Measuring outcomes

The Oxford School Improvement research found: “The intelligent use of tracking data can enable you to identify the strengths and weaknesses of individual pupils and groups, in particular those children under-achieving and eligible for the Pupil Premium, and target intervention and support to accelerate their progress.”

As such measuring the outcomes of support and intervention is of central importance and the psychologists have helped the school to develop pre and post-measures relating to the year 6 transition support including the use of Beck Anxiety Inventories and SDQs (Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaires).

The Beck inventories are completed by the young people as a self-report of their perception of difficulties and the SDQ is completed by teachers and carers as a measure of their perception of a pupil’s current level of difficulty. As the project began in April 2013, pre-measures were completed and post-measures will be completed in the closing weeks of July 2013.



Conclusion

This project has really extended the school’s understanding and the school’s reach with children and their parents. Staff know the psychologists are here as a point of reference, as a point of support, and now feel like part of our staff team rather than “experts” visiting us every week.

• Christine Lockwood is headteacher of Frederick Bird School in Coventry, which works with clinical and educational psychology support from CPA Ltd, a UK-wide provider of evidence-based psychological expertise. For details, including more information from the Frederick Bird School case study, visit www.cpa-ltd.co.uk.

Further information
• Sutton Trust (2012). Premium Policies: What schools and teachers believe will improve standards for poorer pupils and those in low-attaining schools: www.suttontrust.com/research/premium-policies/.
• Oxford School Improvement (2012). The Pupil Premium: Making it work in your school. Oxford University Press. Available online at http://fds.oup.com/www.oup.com/pdf/oxed/primary/pupilpremiumreport.pdf.
• Ofsted (2012). The Pupil Premium. How schools are spending the funding successfully to maximise achievement. Available online at www.ofsted.gov.uk/resources/pupil-premium-how-schools-are-spending-funding-successfully-maximise-achievement.

• For more primary education best practice and advisory articles from Headteacher Update, click here.


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