How primary school teachers can support the transition into Year 7
Summer is approaching; SAT’s test are well underway and year 6’s students are preparing to make the big step into secondary school. We interviewed Hanna Podsiadly, a primary school teacher in London with 7+ years’ experience, to gain her insight and best practises on how she supports her young students prepare for their next challenge in secondary school.
What would you do if a Year 6 student of yours is feeling nervous about going into secondary school?
All students are nervous to some degree but if a child is particularly worried we try to get to the root of their problem and discuss from there. A visit to/from the school usually really helps and sometimes an anonymous discussion box can really help as then children feel they can ask questions that might be “silly or obvious”. The more discussion and preparation the children receive the less nervous they are.
In what ways do you help your student’s transition into a new school year?
In what ways do you help your student’s transition into a new school year? We do lots of work with students in the summer term, mainly discussions and circle times. Our discussions usually centre around these points;
• Negotiating the way around school – they may get lost and this may result in being late for class
• Meeting new children
• Meeting new teachers
• Learning about the rules of the school – explicit and implicit
• Learning new teachers’ names and their expectations and styles of teaching
• Learning about the timetable and the appropriate books and tools required
• Carrying equipment around all day – no central place to return to – therefore increasing the chances of losing equipment or having incorrect equipment for the next class
• Independently organising work and managing own timetable
• In PE and games coping with more complex activities such as changing in/out of PE kit
• At break times there is less supervision from teaching staff- bullying and friendships
• Coping with new topics they have not studied before
We also have workshops run by the local transport company (TFL in our case) about travelling safely to and from school, we run workshops on road safety, mainly crossing roads and we have workshops about personal safety including online safety laws and being groomed for gangs.
In the summer term, there are usually lots of local authority run events (dependent on location) for children to meet other Year 6 children and practice interacting with their peers.
What’s your advice to fellow primary school teachers on how to prepare their class for the transition to secondary school?
Regularly build in time from the Spring Term onwards to talk informally about transition. Have regular chats (once a week) - often based on anonymous question box responses- to ease their anxiety. Do not wait until the week before they leave in the summer term to broach the subject.
Try to give children as much independence and responsibility as possible- more homework that needs to be time managed and consequences if they forget items needed such as PE kit etc to replicate the responsibility needed at secondary school.
If a child is struggling to make friends how would you help them with this?
The first thing we would do in primary is acknowledge that not everyone finds making friends easy - especially in a new setting. We tell children that it can take some time to settle in and that’s normal. In primary, we often have informal lunchtime clubs e.g. table tennis or colouring clubs so students can access if they need more help with friendships. We also have buddy systems or give children that struggle with friend’s responsibilities to improve their confidence.
What would your advice be to secondary school teachers to help make the new students feel welcome?
I would say just be patient with them and set expectations and boundaries very quickly. Let the children know who you are as a teacher, what you will do for students and what you won’t do for them and what you will ask of your students and what you won’t ask of them.
The main anxieties children have are about getting things wrong and being in trouble/looking foolish in front of peers so a discussion of rules and expectations - what children CAN do as well as what they can’t do would be reassuring to them.
Have you ever considered a confidence and team building school trip for your Year 6 group?
Yes, we always take our Year 6 class away on a 4 or 5 day residential. It really helps build confidence, independence and resilience (and is fun!). For most Year 6 classes it’s a very big part of the school calendar. It is also good in terms of transition for children to get used to a new set of rules and be given instructions by unfamiliar adults, as well as often mixing with students from other schools.
Have you heard of Kingswood’s transition programme? And if so, do you think it’s worthwhile?
I have heard of Kingswood’s transition programme and I think it’s very worthwhile. The key messages of problem solving, self-confidence and teamwork are vital for children and would encourage lots of schools to take part. You could also use this programme at any point of the year to build these skills as well as an end of year celebration