Seventh heaven without Year 7

4th March 2005 at 00:00
Why does primary to secondary transition end in tears every year? I have just sat through another ridiculous meeting evaluating the last primary transfer. Each year we raise the same issues and propose much the same tired old solutions.

Each year, the analysis of the now appalling Year 7 behaviour gets into this groove: how can we keep them as lovely little cherubs, smart in their uniform and eager to please?

Each year the same proposal is made. Simulate primary-school conditions and restrict their movement round the school, shielding them from older pupils.

We discuss "zoning" Year 7 yet again - keeping them in one classroom for most of the timetable and having one teacher do most of their subjects, just like the primary curriculum.

We have already given them a separate lunch hour away from all the nasty influences of their older brothers and sisters. But it doesn't stop them from getting wilder as the year goes on.

This change of behaviour is always put down to the youngsters mimicking older pupils. But the discussion never focuses on the fact that the little angel who sat in his class at primary school, also goes through adolescence, and this early teenage process seems to be the most destabilising factor of all.

The argument also forgets that secondary schools are much larger than primary schools and that the pool of difficult disaffected pupils coming together in one place "goes nuclear" with the sudden surge of rebelliousness multiplied many times over. The key stage 3 experts rightly identify a dip in motivation in Year 7 through to Year 8 but put it down to dull teaching. The truth is the dip occurs when the kids' hormones are going wild.

The argument about getting teachers to teach more than one specialism also forgets that most secondary teachers simply don't want to: they came into the profession to specialise.

They are also not too keen to shift all their resources to the Year 7 base classroom rather than using their own teaching room.

So perhaps somebody should carry out the ultimate experiment. Why not leave groups of 11 and12-year-olds in small primary schools for longer and see if they stay sweet and pliable, being taught in one classroom by oneall-purpose teacher? Sounds like an argument for bringing back middle schools to me...

See next week's 11-14 magazine. John Cannon is head of department in a large urban comprehensive. Why not write us a 400-word Sounding Off? Send it to

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