How long have teachers, inspectors and education commentators been agonising over ways of easing the primary-secondary transition? Decades upon decades, it seems. Yet the evaluation of three transition projects (page 4) demonstrates just how isolated the two sectors still are. But it also demonstrates that, with earmarked resources, planning and the right kind of staffing, real progress can be made.
Two of the projects could, the evaluation study concluded, make an impact anywhere. They involved dedicated literacy or numeracy officers working across sectors. The third project, Enable - where primary-trained teachers used their methodologies to improve the basic literacy and numeracy skills of particularly vulnerable low-ability pupils - was seen as especially relevant in areas of high deprivation.
In East Ayrshire, primary and secondary maths teachers collaborated on a new programme of study, covering 5-14 levels D and E, which unites the sectors in a common language and means that S1 teachers have a more detailed understanding of the attainment levels of their new pupils.
All teachers said being able to share the load was a benefit and, once initial suspicions were overcome, they learned a lot from each other. The P7 pupils were motivated by a secondary teacher, who lifted them out of the P7 slump and helped dispel fears about moving up to secondary.
But only with reliable supply staff, and the right calibre of teachers, can this succeed. If all schools had access to the East Ayrshire maths programme, there would be undoubted benefits; if all primary pupils had access to visiting secondary teachers, motivation would be improved; if all secondary and upper primary teachers could observe each other's classes, there would be less of a gulf. This requires more generous funding for resources, staffing and time.