'Primary and secondary teachers need each other — and we need to start viewing each other in a more positive light'

26th June 2017 at 15:42
The only way to smooth the transition between key stages 2 and 3 is for teachers in both stages to learn to trust each other, says one assistant vice-principal

Transition time is fast approaching, and along with it the inevitable discussions about how we can make the move from primary to secondary school smoother for pupils.

Unfortunately, no amount of tutor visits or collaborative projects between key stage 2 and 3 teachers will really bridge the chasm that exists between these two stages.

Attempts to help children cross the threshold are important, and should be continued, but without a more joined-up approach in curriculum and assessment our efforts will never be able to ensure that the learning journey of each child is seamless. For that we need systemic change — something that may not be in our power to effect.

What we do have the power to change, though, is our view of each other. Speaking as a primary teacher, I've heard secondary teachers bemoan the lack of skills that children enter secondary schools with; I have even watched children from my own classes move up to secondary without some basic skills.

On the other hand, I've had secondary teachers visit my school and remark with surprise on the high level of work that primary children do. And I've been in Year 9 classrooms where the students have been completing the same work that I've taught at primary that week.

Observations like these are what cause many primary and secondary teachers to hold a deep mistrust of each other. This has got to stop. Primary and secondary need each other — and we need to start viewing each other in a more positive light.

Breaking down walls

There has to be a move towards primary teachers having a better understanding of the secondary curriculum. When planning a primary child's education we must not think of Year 6 as an end point. Year 6 should be more about preparing for secondary school than it should be about Sats; preparing for Sats should really be done in the years before.

Likewise, secondary teachers who understand what primaries are asked to teach will be much better prepared to teach their new cohorts in September, and beyond. And when assessing a Year 7 child's learning, they will be less likely to dismiss what might have gone on in primary.

Of course, it will be difficult to just start believing that our colleagues in the other key stage are doing a great job without there being some evidence. We won't start trusting each other until we start communicating better with each other. The walls must be broken down and the dialogue needs to change. Instead of primary echo chambers and secondary bubbles, we need to create a sphere where we can discuss a child's journey through education as a whole.

Is there scope for local groups of primary and secondary teachers to meet together on a regular basis? Is this something that our clusters could support? More thought must be given to this, as the benefits could far outweigh the costs in time and money: children could actually receive a better education if their primary and secondary teachers were singing from the same hymn sheet.

We need to give each other the benefit of the doubt. We need to get out there and discuss the issues courteously. If we can do this, then we don’t have to rely on waiting endlessly for reforms that may never come, and the problems with mismatched curricula and assessment systems would not have such a detrimental effect on the children we teach.

Aidan Severs is an assistant vice-principal at a primary school in the North of England. He blogs at ThatBoyCanTeach and tweets @thatboycanteach

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