This informal CPD article Supporting primary pupils’ move to secondary school - more important than ever? was provided by Chameleon PDE, a Personal Social Health Education (PSHE) company offering resources to support pupil PSHE education, mental health and well-being.
Supporting primary pupils’ move to secondary school
The move from primary to secondary school can be exciting, terrifying and everything in-between. Some children are more than ready to make the move and take on new challenges but for others it can be a source of anxiety. Due to Covid we know that many young people’s mental wellbeing needs additional support - so what about those pupils just about to move to secondary school?
From talking to children and teachers, the challenges of transition appear to fall into three broad categories; practical worries, emotional worries and concerns about ’urban myths’. Let’s have a look at each in turn.
Practical worries about transition: Many children will have been at the same primary school for years and know every classroom and square inch of the playground. Even large primary schools are small in comparison to secondary school and not surprisingly one of the big worries children have about secondary school is getting lost. Other practical worries include; reading timetables, carrying books and equipment around, school rules and using public transport or school buses. As adults we take many of these things for granted but for many children, they can be quite daunting tasks.
Emotional worries about transition: Teachers have reported far more of their pupils experiencing a range of emotional concerns than in previous years. The disruption of the past 18 months will have had an impact on many children and even in so called ‘normal’ times it is not unusual for children to feel anxious about big changes in their lives.
The most common concerns are around friendships, either losing friends or a presumed fear of being lonely when they change schools. Teachers have been telling us that pupils are less confident compared to previous years and their self-esteem is not as strong either. Some children have been severely affected as a result of various lockdowns and may have experienced illness or even bereavement in their family. Isolation, lack of routine, home learning and missing friends are just a few of the things that have contributed to lack of confidence and increased anxiety in many children.
Worries about ‘Urban myths’: We’re never quite sure where all the rumours and fake news come from about what is going to happen to children when they move to secondary school, but they continue to circulate and increase pupils’ anxiety levels about transition.
We have heard lots of examples ranging from new students being bullied, having their money or food stolen, punished by teachers for getting lost, hours of homework for every subject, strict teachers, lists of school rules and ‘punishments’, students smoking, carrying knives and lots more. As we know schools do everything in their power to keep children safe, however, the rumours persist and need to be addressed especially as most are ‘fake news’.
How to prepare your pupils for school transition
- Asking students what they are worried or curious about is a good first step. Questions can be written down and posted in a box over a few days and then a session used to go through the questions in the box and reassure the children.
- Dedicating enough time to adequately address concerns is important and being able to assess if pupils are feeling more confident afterwards is also helpful. Consider how this could be measured - how do you know your interventions have worked?
- Familiarisation with the new school is very useful but may not have been possible due to Covid restrictions. A virtual tour is better than nothing and inviting former pupils in to talk about secondary school always goes down well with children.
- Giving your pupils strategies to practise in a safe environment is always helpful in building confidence and this can include practical skills such as reading timetables as well as opportunities to think about meeting new people and making new friends.
- Reassuring children about all the great opportunities they will experience at secondary school is also important to help them feel excited about the move.
Managing change is a vital part of pupil’s personal development and we have produced a primary to secondary activity pack to support everything covered above and much more. The 26 activities allow schools to prepare their pupils to confidently make the move to secondary school and continue their education journey. Based on what children have told us they need, we’re hopeful these activities will help them grow in confidence and reduce any anxiety and apprehension.
We hope this article was helpful. For more information from Chameleon PDE, please visit their CPD Member Directory page. Alternatively, please visit the CPD Industry Hubs for more CPD articles, courses and events relevant to your Continuing Professional Development requirements.