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.
Character Education is the subject of one of the reports to come out of the DfE this summer. It is a review of some research into Character Education in Schools. The research poses several questions linked to provision, the role of schools in teaching character, the approaches schools use and the challenges schools face.
Rising Stars provide a very good overview of the findings of the report in their document, DFE Publishes Character Education Report.
Is it necessary to have a separate curriculum pathway called Character Education?
What is education if it is not a part of shaping the individual to be honest, have integrity and a respect for others? All learning should stimulate curiosity and allow for problem solving that creates resilient and motivated learners. There are so many opportunities within the curriculum for learners to debate, focus on moral dilemma, learn self-respect and deepen their sense of fairness in order that they can contribute to society.
Subject specific learning is stuffed full of opportunities for pupils to develop their individual and unique characters. English Literature or History allows us to analyse different characters and their influence on people, time and place. Maths and Science give us an awesome look at how the world is shaped and the part we can play in enjoying it, inventing it or using it. Design, art music or drama provide us with a wealth of opportunities for creativity, expression and individuality. PE and sport develop the bodies and minds of learners and teach them how to win and lose, how to embrace competitiveness and how to be a team player. Both the primary and secondary curriculum have the breadth and depth to encompass character education.
Most of the curriculum is currently taught in chunks, where the learning is not an interwoven tapestry that develops the whole person. There are so many opportunities for pupils to develop a whole range of skills that will ensure they become independent and resilient, open to ideas and full of the possibilities that learning can bring. School, especially upper primary and secondary stages often provides pupils with the facts and information they need to pass tests and examinations. There is no other stage in their lives where they will learn in such small bite size segments that appear to be unconnected.
We don’t need an addition to the curriculum; we need to look at how we can shape the curriculum so that it builds character that will last a lifetime.
The business of a school is learning. If we put learning at the heart of every goal we set and through professional coaching conversations we focus on how our pupils learn, how we learn and how our colleagues learn we will build a culture that celebrates what works well, identify what needs to change and be able to reflect on the impact our teaching has on how well pupils deepen their knowledge and progress.
Identifying the pedagogies that we use in the classroom is important. The craft of teaching is a gift. However, if we don’t look carefully to how successfully it links to learning we cannot expect to find ways to continually improve.
Ponder on these questions
- How does your teaching link with what learners are interested in?
- How does your teaching allow pupils to learn concepts that will support them to deepen their knowledge?
- How does your teaching allow pupils to make connections with what they have learnt elsewhere?
- How does your teaching promote the use of higher level thinking skills that deepens their learning?
- How does your teaching allow pupils to share their ideas and work well in groups?
- How meaningful is what you are teaching to your learners’ own experiences and existing knowledge?
- How can you be sure that your teaching is building on prior learning?
- How do you create opportunities for pupils to talk about their learning and be able to say how they are learning as well as what they are learning?
- How do you make sure that pupils understand what is said to them and comprehend what they read?
Make sure that with every plan and every decision made, whatever it is about, there is a link to learning. There is some serious research that suggests it makes an outstanding difference!