Research suggests that pupil performance as a result of primary to secondary transition can dip by as much as 39%. There are many reasons why this might be so, some are unavoidable as pupils move from the relatively calm and comfortable primary classroom to the less pupil centred secondary school. There are, however, many things a secondary school can do to turn this dip around.
OFSTED remain critical of the lack of communication they detect at times of primary to secondary transition. The new primary curriculum is now well embedded and the content is considerably more in-depth than previously. For instance, in Maths pupils are now learning in year 4 what they used to learn in year 6. The perception from the inspectorate and other stakeholder bodies is that secondary teachers are not aware of the standards and quality of work that is being produced particularly by pupils in years 5 and 6. Secondary schools need a strategy through cross phase primary to secondary transition partnerships that ensure higher levels of interaction through such interventions as the sharing of schemes of work, an opportunity to dovetail programmes of study and time to observe and reflect on learning.
Secondary teachers should look closely at the SATs tests to see what the pupils they will be teaching are expected to be able to achieve in the last term of year 6. The scores from these tests will determine the accountability measures by which secondary schools will be judged over the five years until the next testing regime of GCSE. The data is new and the method by which the data is gathered and collated is new. Many secondary headteachers say that there is a lack of granularity in the new data which makes it difficult to make judgements on prior achievement. Many see the new data used as part of primary to secondary transition as a barrier to successful academic transition.
Relying on the quantitative data at times of primary to secondary transition is a mistake if it is not backed up by qualitative data and information. This can only come from clearly defined communication strategies that allow for schools across the bridge to collaborate and share what pupils have learnt, how the learning has been assessed and what the gaps are in individual pupil’s learning by the end of year 6. This requires an investment by both phases such as, creating teacher time to share, moderate and observe, cross – phase CPD and an opportunity to build co-written schemes of work that deliver seamless learning from KS2 to 3.
Secondary schools need answers to questions such as “what does good progress look like from year 6 to year 9?” “What do the scaled scores at KS2 mean in relation to progress at KS3?” “How do we build on prior learning in a positive way so that pupils see that they are involved in deepening and extending their learning?”
We have designed as a result of in-depth sector led research a powerful training course Crossing the Bridge – Seamless Transition from KS2 to 3 that focuses on these issues and will provide solutions and resources to support highly successful evidence based strategies at times of primary to secondary transition that deliver answers, motivated pupils and a high chance of successful outcomes for pupils at the end of KS4. You may also like to have a look at a recent blog post, The Spotlight is on KS3 which highlights the issues that OFSTED see as still lacking in secondary school planning for KS3.
This post has some serious messages for all those involved in planning the KS3 curriculum. A senior representative from OFSTED spoke at a Westminster Forum last week. His message, more than two years after the publication of the report, Key Stage 3: the wasted years?, little has changed. His key concerns were:
- Key Stage 3 is not seen as a priority so there is still evidence of split classes and non-specialist teachers teaching core subjects
- Insufficient breadth and balance especially where KS3 is being reduced to two years rather than 3
- Although there are improvements in literacy provision there is still poor provision to ensure pupils can use numeracy unconsciously as part of learning across the curriculum
- Careers education is poorly served within KS3
- There is still insufficient focus on the building of prior learning from primary to secondary school so that secondary teachers understand what has been taught and to what depth
It was emphasised that OFSTED have no preference on the size of KS3 ie. two years or three years. However, if the decision is a two-year KS3 they are looking for schools to justify with some clarity the impact this will have on learning, knowledge, skills, progression and continuity. Essentially, he stated, the KS3 curriculum is designed as a 3-year programme and GCSEs are designed to cover a two-year span. I think you can draw your own conclusions on their preference.
There are some questions that curriculum planners and those involved in school improvement need to answer in their quest for a KS3 that will deliver high levels of pupil progress and prepare pupils well for KS4 and beyond.
- How committed are senior leaders in the school to ensuring KS3 has the priority OFSTED have given it?
- How do we create evidence that the curriculum builds on prior learning from the primary phase?
- If we choose a two-year KS3, how do we justify the decision in relation to impact on breadth and balance that ensures pupils have sufficient time to deepen their knowledge and understanding and develop a range of skills ready for KS4 and beyond?
- What can be done to reduce the number of split classes and the use of non-specialist teachers used to teach in KS3?
- How do we make sure that there is not a narrowing of the curriculum for lower attaining learners and that higher achieving learners are achieving their full potential?
- How do we shape the curriculum at KS3 so that pupils develop a range of essential skills, especially literacy and numeracy and have a rich tapestry of learning linked to the content of the KS3 programmes of study so that KS3 is not seen as an extension of simply preparing for GCSE?
Since the publication of the wasted years report we have deeply researched this area of curriculum development and have delivered with stunning feedback our training course, How important is Key Stage 3 to your School? We have resources, tools, research papers and ideas to support you in answering the questions above.
If your main consideration in planning for this curriculum stage is transition from KS2 to 3 join us for our extremely popular and well received training course,
Crossing the Transition Bridge – seamless learning from KS2 to 3.
Effective transition from Year 6 to Year 7 – It’s all about continuity, sharing and challenging.
Creating a continuum of learning that builds on prior knowledge and skills, creates independent and enthusiastic learners and ensures every child can progress and achieve their full potential is what anyone who is in the education profession would agree with. So why is it that we still have a well-researched and continuing dip in performance of anything up to 39% for pupils at the end of year 7. Read more