One in six pupils feels unprepared for the transition from primary to secondary school, with many of them worried about being bullied.
And their fears are justified: a quarter are likely to be bullied at their new school. Secondaries share their apprehension, rarely trusting information from feeder primaries.
But pupils' anxiety largely disappear by the end of their first term, helped by several initiatives.
Researchers from the Effective Pre-School, Primary and Secondary Education project found many pupils worried whether they would make friends or keep up with work at secondary.
Bullying was the key obstacle to transition. A quarter of Year 7 pupils had some experience of bullying at school, and a third of pupils with special educational needs said they had been bullied. Pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds found it hard to settle, with three-quarters struggling to get used to new routines.
Researchers spoke to 1,190 pupils moving to secondary school, and their parents. They found that fears rarely lasted long. By the end of their first term at secondary, only 3 per cent of pupils felt worried.
Measures such as information booklets and open days helped to ease anxiety. Many schools used the same work books in both Years 6 and 7 to create a sense of continuity. And pupils welcomed efforts to accommodate them in their first weeks, such as a relaxation of rules.
Some schools ensured that the new Year 7 began a day before the rest of the pupils, so that 11-year-olds could explore the surroundings without having to negotiate their way around older teenagers.
The researchers said: "The factors that identify a successful transition can be summarised as social adjustment, institutional adjustment and curriculum interest." But much also depends on the teachers themselves. While secondary teachers regularly worked with primary pupils, they were less enthusiastic about their primary colleagues.
The researchers said: "Secondary schools do not appear to trust the data on children provided by primary schools at Year 6 level, and this leads to a system of baseline re-testing of all children at Year 7."