Skip to main content

Dear Ted

I am a Year 6 teacher. Each year my ex-pupils tell me they are covering the same ground in Year 7 and are bored by it. How can we avoid this perennial problem?

Ted Wragg, professor of education at Exeter University, answers your professional problems, big or small, every week. Ask him for independent advice - or offer some of your own - by writing to: Dear Ted, The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX. Or email:

Ted says

Primary to secondary transfer is well managed in some respects, but not others. It is common for primary children to spend a day or more in their new school during Year 6, and many secondary schools make a special effort to induct newcomers in Year 7. The pastoral side is certainly important, as many children move from one class teacher in a primary school to 10 different ones in a huge secondary school.

But you are talking about curriculum continuity, and that is not always smoothly managed. Primary teachers grumble that children merely repeat Year 6, while secondary teachers say they are not yet securely grounded enough to move ahead.

Teacher swaps are a good idea. Having secondary staff teaching Year 6, and primary teachers working with Year 7 children, allows each to see at first hand what the other actually does. Putting on joint primarysecondary professional development courses is another way in which intelligence can be gathered about the other phase of education.

Year 7 teachers can perform a useful service by asking their pupils directly whether they are merely covering old ground, or if they think the gap between the level of work last year and this year is too large. The "dip" in performance that can occur in Years 7 and 8 is well known as the excitement of going to a big new school tarnishes, so anything that helps maintain interest will be useful.

One other significant factor is that Year 6 may have been a desperate cram for the SATs, league tables and target meeting, so secondary teachers sometimes want to revisit the work, to make sure understanding has taken place, not just mechanical learning.

Ask ex-pupils for examples of duplication. Secondary teachers can be asked for instances of what they regard as inadequate coverage. Primary and secondary teachers can then meet, promise not to come to blows, and discuss something concrete, rather than whinge about each other.

You say

Set up bridging projects

You could do with a working party or network of all the local Year 6 teachers and the secondary key stage 3 co-ordinators. This could meet perhaps once a term to examine schemes of work, plan bridging projects and share resources and teaching styles. In an ideal world, the local secondary school(s) would provide this. They might expect to benefit from such an investment, particularly with the current focus on the key stage 3 strategy. This year, many schools will introduce the transition passport idea, where Year 6 pupils collect skill visas which they can carry over to secondary school. The skill areas link key stage 2 to bridging projects, and pupils are rewarded for their efforts by trading visas for secondary school credits on their arrival in September. Meanwhile, during the summer term, secondary English, maths and science teachers can go into primaries to help initiate bridging projects that are written into Year 7 schemes of work, and which will be completed during the first few lessons in September.

Andy Edwards, Otley, West Yorkshire

Build on previous work

The answer is straightforward - talk to the secondary schools. The responsibility to establish what each of us is doing lies as much with secondary teachers as with our primary colleagues. My own school has set up links with our feeder primaries to try to make our curriculum build on what is done at key stage 2, and to make key stage 3 a significantly different and challenging experience. This is not always easy, but a designated member of staff collates a lot of the information for us by visiting primary schools. Encourage your local secondaries to do the same, and nominate someone to be a link person from your own school.

I'm an RE specialist and always ask new pupils what they have already done in my subject. When I cover the same topic, I try to do something different, or do it from a new angle. In the same way, if you asked local secondaries to provide you with a summary of topics studied in other subject areas (usually already available for parents and in departmental handbooks), you'd be able to avoid unnecessary repetition. In the end, the solution to your problem is all about getting hold of appropriate information.

Julian Selman, south Gloucestershire

Set up a subject forum

The key stage 3 strategy encourages liaison between primary and secondary schools. As a secondary science teacher, I've been into primary schools to observe and to teach Years 5 and 6. I have always had to set up the sessions and, although some primary teachers are sceptical at first, this soon disappears once pupils are engaged and learning.

Contact the head of science at the secondary school which your pupils feed into and invite himher to observe science with your Year 6s. Eventually, ask himher to see your Years 4 and 5. Show your schemes of work and discuss the areas you feel have been a strength.

A big problem is that pupils come from many primary schools, each giving its own experience. Try to set up a local schools science forum (primary and secondary) to share good primary school practice while informing the secondary schools of the current teaching methods for primary children.

Stuart Bennett, Sleaford, Lincolnshire

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you