Minding the gap

Close working between primary and secondary teachers is key to pupils' successful transition

Three initiatives which targeted the dip in performance between primary and secondary have delivered marked improvements in pupils' literacy and numeracy - in some cases dramatically. They also boosted pupils' motivation and confidence and eased the transition from P7 to S1.

Hugh Henry, the Education Minister, commended the difference that close working between primary and secondary teachers could make, and said the projects had confirmed that "competent, confident teachers are the key to smooth, successful transitions for pupils".

An evaluation of the three pilot schemes, published today by the Scottish Executive, found that the models developed in North Lanarkshire in literacy and in East Ayrshire in maths could work in any area, provided key factors such as staff resources and commitment were in place.

The Enable project at Eastbank Academy in Glasgow, where primary-trained teachers used their methodologies with the most vulnerable and least able pupils, was felt to be particularly suitable for areas of high deprivation and had a "significant impact" on attainment.

The percentages of pupils who were still at level C or below fell from 93 per cent in reading at the start of S1 to 30 per cent by the end of S2, from 87 per cent to 33 per cent in writing and from 91 per cent to 26 per cent in maths.

Eastbank teachers warned, however, that senior managements would have to share their vision to make a similar scheme work; otherwise, there was a danger of Enable being seen as just a "dumping ground for poor kids".

Primary teachers in the two other authorities said they were confident their pupils would no longer be "marking time" or repeating work when they moved into S1, because the secondary school had better information about the primary curriculum and the pupils' strengths and weaknesses.

In North Lanarkshire, two former assistant principal teachers in English were appointed as literacy development officers and targeted P6-S2 pupils in their secondary school cluster. This led to improvements in writing and particularly reading attainment in both secondaries, according to the report by Ruth Bryan and Morag Treanor of MVA Consultancy, with support from Malcolm Hill of the Glasgow Centre for the Child and Society.

The East Ayrshire numeracy pilot revealed that primary and secondary maths teachers were using different terminology and methods for teaching maths, which added to pupils' confusion.

Teachers in the authority's primary and secondary sectors reported that pupils were passing national assessments at a higher level, but the researchers concluded that "there was less of an impact on attainment than teachers estimated".

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