Secondary schools should introduce a year-long transition for Year 7 students to give them more time to adjust to their new environment, according to a new report.
Researchers at the UCL Institute of Education (IOE) have recommended that the transition into secondary school should be more than an induction, and take place over at least the whole school year.
It should also include more mental health support and play, closer to the experience of primary school, they advise.
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The recommendations have been made in a report examining the experiences of pupils moving from Year 6 to Year 7 during the 2020-21 academic year in England.
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The report highlights that some elements of successful transitions into secondary school, such as managing children’s expectations, ensuring continuity of learning and minimising any missed learning opportunities, were heavily compromised by the pandemic.
The research report, written by Sandra Leaton Gray, Katya Saville, Eleanore Hargreaves, Emma Jones and Jane Perryman, also says that problems with technology had not only an impact on learning but also on transition preparation.
Dr Leaton Gray, the project leader and associate professor of education at the IOE, said: “Secondary schools that manage to bridge the gap well between primary and secondary phases set up their students for a lifetime’s successful learning.
"Improving the quality of break times, dedicating areas of the school to younger students, and providing top quality technology experiences are all key to achieving this in the post-pandemic world.”
The report also suggests that year-group bubbles for Year 7 students may have had some positive effects in the transition, protecting younger students from stresses such as bullying and allowing them to concentrate on their new environment.
The report reads: "We hesitate to recommend a completely physically separate lower secondary phase, as our research findings do not indicate a desire for that, but simple steps such as having a part of the school mainly (but not exclusively) dedicated to Year 7, with some segregation of social areas for high-quality break times as well as separate toilets, can help to mitigate the stress of joining the secondary school."