10 Tips For Successful School Transitions

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Lynn How

Lynn is the Editor at Teacher Toolkit. With 20 years of primary teaching and SLT experience, she has been an Assistant Head, Lead Mentor for ITT and SENCO. She loves to write and also has her own SEMH and staff mental health blog: www.positiveyoungmind.com. Lynn...
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Are your pupils nervous or excited about the next big step?

An effective approach to supporting children through school transition is likely to involve a combination of strategies delivered to all pupils. Additional strategies for vulnerable pupils should be delivered on a case by case basis according to their needs.

The transition from primary to secondary school is a big one, but let’s also be mindful of all of those other transitions. These include infant to juniors, secondary to sixth form, and nursery to reception. Regardless of age, there are some common strategies to support everyone.

Transition research

STARS (The School Transition and Adjustment Research Study (STARS) followed 2000 pupils from South-East England on their transition journeys. This information is gathered from pupils, parents and teachers throughout the transition period. They asked about pupils’ well-being, academic achievement, and their views about school and relationships with friends and teachers.

Main findings

STARS notes that effective transition means:

  1.  Being academically and behaviourally involved in school.
  2.  Feeling a sense of belonging to school.

Additionally, they discovered:

  1. Concerns about moving were reduced once they started.
  2. Other concerns such as friendships, discipline and homework reduced more slowly.
  3. Friendships changed considerably.
  4. No single group was especially vulnerable to poor transition but used additional strategies for individuals with personalised strategies to the pupil.

10 top tips for transition

  1. Visuals – We are all less concerned about things once we have seen where we will be. Older children can use online tools to take virtual tours before visiting, younger children will need visits – the more visits the better!
  2. Names to faces – Key people on the pupil’s journey will need to be introduced, especially form tutors and pastoral support for older pupils. Younger children and their parents should have their key adult identified. All parties should know who is the first person to talk to if a problem arises and where to find them …
  3. Timetables – Older pupils will benefit from learning how to read a timetable and what their school day will look like. Younger children love to know what sort of activities they will be doing and what they can play with.
  4. Homework – Outline these expectations from the outset so there are no surprises. Let pupil’s know where they can find homework support. Can they email staff about homework? Can they see instructions on a website? What are consequences for non-completion?
  5. Friendships – Plan in lots of classroom icebreaker style activities for transition days. Can older pupils swap details with new people they meet? Can they have an online chat forum to talk to each other over the summer? Younger children could have the opportunity to meet up in a local soft play over the break.
  6. Q&A – Provide opportunities for pupils to have question and answer sessions with new school staff online. Follow this up after in class and set up a worry box for this purpose.
  7. Parents – Include parents whenever possible. Sometimes they are more concerned than the children!
  8. Journey – Encourage pupils to practise their journey to school in the summer. For some it might involve two buses. Suggest they try it at the same time of day as their actual journey too!
  9. Previous pupils – Get reception, year 3, 7 and 12 onboard to talk about their successful transitions and how amazing their new schools are! Anything to reassure new pupils …
  10. Time – Allow children time to digest information, explore virtual tours and find out as much as they can.

With all these ideas and some of your own, your pupils will have the best start possible to the next phase of their educational journey.

Further resources:

  1. STARS transition resources 
  2. Full STARS report 
  3. BBC Bitesize: Starting Secondary 
  4. Young Minds transition support 
  5. Teacher Toolkit: Transition for those with additional needs 


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