I was disappointed, although not entirely surprised, to hear that some secondary schools phone primaries the day before an intended transition visit, expecting to arrange a thoughtful and meaningful conversation with pupils' new teachers and teaching assistants.
Writing about this in his column in the 15 June issue of Tes, Michael Tidd made several valid points about what secondary schools could do better. But he also, quite rightly, pointed out that primary colleagues shouldn't be sitting back too smugly.
Generally speaking, most primary schools that I visit provide useful and succinct information, with some teachers investing additional time to discuss the more intricate cases. However, some schools can prove to be elusive, particularly when the Sats are in full swing. So, from a secondary perspective, what could some of our primary colleagues do differently? Two things spring to mind.
First, highlight possible undiagnosed needs. Many primary teachers spend a significant amount of time detailing the strengths and areas of concern for their most vulnerable or challenging students. However, a considerable number of these students will have no diagnosis and will not be on the SEND register. On occasions, I am informed of dyslexic tendencies and traits of autism where no diagnosis has been sought. I understand that some parents/carers are against labelling, and that is their prerogative, yet this does not account for most of the undiagnosed cases. Having a diagnosis can really help in targeting specific support, as well as acting as a means to access additional funding streams.
Better funding for SEND
Another issue I have encountered whilst working both in London and in Norfolk is primary colleagues opting to start the Education and Healthcare Plan (EHCP) referral process just weeks before Year 6 students leave in the summer term, which causes a number of issues. It is difficult if an EHCP is applied for in one setting, but followed up in an entirely new one, where the young person may be facing different challenges, particularly as they settle into their new school.
Please don't get me wrong; this is not an attempt to point the finger at primary colleagues. After all, cuts to funding have impacted all schools, but particularly those with a very limited roll in remote settings. I feel that a broader view needs to be taken, with a greater amount of money invested in early years and primary education, so that students can be accurately assessed and appropriately supported from the beginning of their education. I truly believe that early intervention is essential; otherwise you end up with disaffected students who have developed a loathing of formal education by the time they reach Year 8.
In the meantime, whilst we wait for a radical overhaul in SEND funding, primary and secondary colleagues need to rely on finding ways to work together to better support students. I have found that the connections and relationships that I have begun to develop during my second year as a Sendco in Norfolk have really helped. It might be worthwhile to take this a step further next year by inviting primary colleagues into our school to show them what we have to offer, as well as explaining some of the potential pitfalls associated with the move from primary to secondary school. And, as Michael Tidd suggests, let's start talking earlier next year.
Gemma Corby is Sendco at Hobart High School, Norfolk. Her column for Tes runs every second Tuesday during term time