Back in 2007 a World Bank Development report identified the transition to secondary school as one of five important life stage transitions for young people and that this particular transition phase can affect children’s attainment and wellbeing in the longer term.[i]
Yet in this summer term of 2021 many Year 6 pupils have been unable to visit their new secondary schools in the usual way or if they do, only very briefly. Teachers are finding that if their pupils can visit their new secondary school they often don’t have the chance to meet new classmates as they stay in their primary class bubbles. There is also the worry about loosing old friendships at the same time - increasing their feeling of apprehension.
Uncertainty about moving to a bigger school
Making new friends has always been a worry for some and this year the pressure is heightened as they can’t mix with their new form groups making a fear of the unknown more intense. Pupils can also feel very uncertain about moving to a bigger school and have practical concerns about getting lost in a new school that they have only visited for an hour or two the term before.
Year 6 primary pupils list their concerns about not being independent and organised enough to follow a timetable and worry about being able to remember their homework and the right books to pack. In summary, they face a more challenging school setting as well as changes in social interactions with teachers and older pupils.
Primary schools such as Excalibur Primary School in Cheshire are overcoming these challenges using Discovery Education’s digital PSHE programme Health and Relationships as it prepares children to transition to secondary school using videos, lesson plans, discussions and fun learning activities.
Real pupils offer advice on what to expect
The programme contains lesson plans, videos and presentations on themes such as Moving on, and Responsible behaviour as we get older. The focus is on secondary school transition, where real pupils offer advice on what to expect, and introduce pupils to people who can help them, there’s also practical activities based on coping with emotional effects of life changes such as reflecting on time spent in primary school and special memories made in Year 6.
Assistant Headteacher Daniel Hancock from Excalibur Primary in Cheshire feels the programme is making a real impact: “Due to the pandemic, things are a little bit different for our pupils this year. They will visit their secondary school but won’t have the chance to meet new classmates. Making friends is a worry for some Year 6 pupils, so it’s great to be able to address this using the digital resources.”
Digital resources can address pupils’ worries without leaving the classroom
With just a few weeks left of the Summer Term, preparation for Year 6 transition is well underway in classrooms across the UK. Kristina Mjomark, Discovery Education’s Programme creator hopes that the Health and Relationships resources will help teachers to recreate some of the experiences that children will miss out on this year.
“Moving up to secondary school is an important life event and one that can be unsettling for some children. Our Health and Relationships resources are designed to give teachers the tools they need to support pupils’ mental wellbeing, address their worries and show them what high school life is really like – without even leaving the classroom.”
Daniel now feels reassured : “I think sometimes the transition comes in the summer term and it comes as a bit of a shock! But with the Health and Relationships programme it is part of the scheme, what my pupils are learning on a day to day basis throughout the year as opposed to it being an add on bit which is a bit scary at the end I guess.”
Discovery Education Health and Relationships is a complete digital PSHE programme which helps primary school teachers to meet the new statutory Relationships, Sex and Health Education Curriculum. The programme is available to schools at no cost until October 2021. Schools are encouraged to register here: www.discoveryeducation.co.uk/rse.
[i] Identifying factors that predict successful and difficult transitions to secondary school https://nuffieldfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/STARS_report.pdf