Top 10 tips for... Year 6 to 7 transition

Written by: Suzanne O’Connell | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

It can be a tense time for parents and pupils as the end of year 6 approaches. What should your transition planning look like and how can you ensure pupils have the best start possible in year 7? Suzanne O’Connell offers 10 ideas to ensure a smooth transition – both this year and next

1, Start early

The best time to be preparing your transition plan is at the end of the summer term prior to the new school year. This is the time when the mistakes and successes of the year are still fresh in your mind.

Try and plan in shared activities and events throughout the year and gently lead into the handover build up rather than having a sudden focus once SATs are over.

Plan in opportunities for your year 6 to chat and share their concerns, collate any frequently asked questions, and let secondary colleagues know what the emerging issues seem to be.

2, Part of your timetable

See if you can get your local secondary school involved as early as possible. Having a link teacher or specialist teacher who delivers some classes throughout the year will not only help your staffing issues but also provide a “recruitment campaigner” on site for them.

It is a big commitment but can have great benefits for both schools. They can become a source of reference, provide insight into the secondary curriculum, and give you heads-up on individuals and changes that could have an impact on your school.

3, Involve year 5

Rather than just focusing on year 6 pupils, bring year 5 in on the act. Without the same level of pressure coming from SATs, the staff in this year group might feel more able to accommodate “getting to know you” plans. If you do have a visiting secondary teacher this might be the better place for them to start building bonds and relationships.

4, Material for home

Parents will be anxious about their child’s move up to “big school”. Local secondary schools will have their own ideas about how they reach out, but you should also consider how you keep them informed about the general changes they can expect. Can you put together a package that provides ideas for preparation during the summer holiday, for example?

As the familiar faces, parents will look to you for answers to their questions and for reassurance. It can be tempting to refer them on to secondary colleagues but do try to assist them where you can. Where this is not possible, establish with secondary colleagues the communication process for covering questions and concerns as they arise.

5, Special needs

Some of your special needs children will feel particularly vulnerable at transfer time. Spend time talking to your SENCO and any SEND teachers about how they can be best supported in navigating the changes.

Children on the autistic spectrum will require a carefully scripted plan for how the induction takes place. Make sure that this is not left to the last minute and that the receiving school is kept informed about the extent of their needs.

6, Keep subject leaders involved

The recent science subject report from Ofsted (2023) suggests that there needed to be greater liaison between primary and secondary schools when it came to the science curriculum. This is the first of a string of subject reports due to be published by the inspectorate and it is likely that a similar message will follow in relation to other subjects too.

The science report found that there was often a misconception about how much content had actually already been taught and that there was some repetition as a result.

Make sure that subject leaders have opportunity to hand on their plans and, ideally, meet with their equivalent department. You might also ask for some of their year 7 plans in return. A quick scan should help identify where there is overlap. Curriculum time is precious, and repetition will be awkward when your pupils are looking forward to the demands of the secondary curriculum.

7, Let the pupils do the talking

Old pupils are the best ambassadors. They love to return to their primary school, meet up with their old teachers, and share their experiences of secondary school life. As year 7 are moving into year 8 they will relish the feeling of first year accomplished and most will be happy to share their experiences. It is also rewarding to see how your hard work developing and supporting your primary pupils is turning out.

Set aside a time for them to come and meet with year 6 and bring their reassuring reflections to the floor. It might even be possible for these ambassadors to become mentors during the transition process.

8, Reach out

Many primary schools are likely to have one secondary school with which they have a particularly strong relationship. It could be to do with location or a common multi-academy trust or other federation, or there could simply be historical reasons.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to keep the same level of relationships established with all your secondary schools (if you have a lot) and their level of interest and participation will be a major factor.

However, do take some time to consider whether more might be done with those that traditionally have not been as involved with your school. There could be good reasons for why this is the case but equally traditions established over time can get in the way of new bonds and relationships which could be beneficial.

9, What can you offer?

Secondary schools are generally in a better place when it comes to offering help. However, why not try offering something in return too? Perhaps a little work experience for some of their students or a talk on primary teaching as part of careers education.

Year 7 teachers might also benefit from greater insight into the teaching techniques of year 6. Invite them to come and observe lessons and encourage them to consider how some of the teaching approaches might be adapted and suitable for the secondary classroom.

10, Recording and reporting

However effective your face-to-face “feed-forward” might be, the assessments and records you pass on are crucial. Academic achievement, any special needs and pastoral concerns will all need to be passed on in a format that reflects what each school needs to know. Much of this information will be standard and you should allow, if possible, time for your year 6 staff to collate and present what is asked for. Try to trim down any unnecessary paperwork. What do they actually use and what goes untouched? Be ruthless, on your year 6 teachers’ behalf, filtering out things that will go straight in the bin and focusing solely on what secondary schools need.

  • Suzanne O’Connell is a freelance education writer and a former primary school headteacher.

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