Transfer can be made easy

6th May 2005 at 01:00
Years ago, in the Dark Ages before the national curriculum offered the possibility of curricular continuity from early years to A-level, the move from primary to secondary school was a rite of passage for pupils. It was surrounded by myth and misconception, and the subject of countless scary stories designed to give "top juniors" nightmares. Secondary teachers weren't much better than their pupils - it was common to hear them say that they didn't want information about their new pupils, so that they could give them a fresh start, discarding all the insights and understanding their primary colleagues had built up over six years. Hardly complimentary.

Practice is improving, though. Enlightened teachers in primary and secondary schools will have been in touch, and there may have been new parents' evenings, preliminary visits and taster lessons to help explain and demystify the business of becoming a Year 7.

Year 7s need a lot of support to help them deal with the social and cultural demands of a much bigger school, with the complexity of 10-day timetables, and with having to walk a long way between lessons. It's no surprise that performance and attainment suffer. Year 6 class teachers and Year 7 form tutors can help - and if they work together, they can be twice as effective.

Harry Dodds


Year 6 teachers can start preparing their pupils now - get the information flowing.

Begin with a structured visit to the secondary school's website. Divide your class into groups, each tasked with finding out a specific area and reporting back. Three or four groups could explore the curriculum, one could look at sports facilities, another could prepare a map of classrooms.

What about food, computers, trips, homework, drama? The list can be as long as you want it to be.

If there is no website, or if it's less than helpful, base the same kind of research on the secondary school's printed material - brochures and information leaflets.

Make contact with the head of Year 7 and see whether you can establish an email "buddy" system. Existing Year 7 pupils could volunteer to correspond with Year 6 pupils and answer their questions, many of which will have come from exploring the website. If email's a problem, write letters - real readers, real purposes.

Invite secondary teachers to your school. Target the head of Year 7 and anyone likely to be your pupils' form tutor in September. Give them lunch and let your pupils ask questions, as informally as you like. Suggest that you would like to send a small group of your pupils on a fact-finding mission - if your hospitality was good, they can hardly refuse.

Do your own research so that you are better placed to answer questions. If that means visiting the secondary school and building personal contacts, so much the better.


You can prepare your pupils for their new experience in September. They will have developed close relationships with you and may be over-dependent on your support. If they become used to thinking and working for themselves, and have more opportunities to manage their own time and learning, they will learn to cope without you.

Help your pupils think of their normal classroom activities in terms of discrete subject areas. Introduce study skills - organise sessions to show them how to make notes, keep a work planner, make a presentation, research in libraries or electronically. Try problem-solving and lateral thinking games.

Take a fresh look at homework - anticipate the increased demand for independent, research-based work. Brush up pupils' oral skills - confident speakers make a good impression.

Discuss what their new school will expect of them, not just in terms of attitude and application, but in practical terms - run through and explain uniform and equipment lists.

Encourage pupils to build a portfolio of their best work to show their new teachers. Include a reading log.

Put together notes that reflect pupils' strengths: express weaknesses as targets. Involve your pupils in the process to reflect on and evaluate their own performance - it will help their confidence and give them something to aim for.


Who's going to set the tone for the new year - the school or the new Year 7? Use lots of praise in the early days to reinforce the behaviours and attitudes that you want. Find positive uses for undirected pupil energy - from keeping the whiteboard clean and writing the date to maintaining a pinboard with photographs and news about tutor group members.

Some schools like to put their tutor groups together on the basis of friendship patterns, but that's not always a good idea. If a large proportion of your group has come through primary school together, they will bring a lot of baggage and are quite likely to exclude singletons from other schools. Be alert if you're in this situation, it's better by far not to let it happen in the first place.

Your school will probably have more impressive facilities and equipment than your primary feeders. Can you find ways to share, say, your science labs, or your ICT suite? Do you teach a subject that isn't offered in primary schools? Can you find a way to take it into Year 6? Is there potential for joint projects, perhaps in citizenship or PSHE - secondary geography might work well in helping a primary school address concerns about local road traffic?

Your primary colleagues will have supplied a lot of information about your new group and they know their ex-pupils very well. Have you read their reports? Offer feedback so they know that their knowledge is valued.


As a Year 7 tutor, you will be closely involved in whatever induction process your school offers - but does it do the job effectively and does it address these issues?

* Do your pupils have a map of the school?

* Have they had an opportunity to explore and to find the rooms where they're timetabled? A treasure hunt activity would confirm that for them.

* Where do they keep their bags and their kit? How do they know?

* Have you explained how the timetable works, especially if it runs over 10 days rather than a week? Have you explained what the abbreviations mean?

* Do you have a system for telling them in advance which week it is?

* Do they have the equipment they need?

* Do they understand the uniform? Are any of them interpreting the uniform code creatively?

* If you have registration at the end of the day, have you built in to your procedure something to prompt your pupils to be ready for the next day?

* What should they do if they miss their bus? (It's bound to happen and it can be distressing.)

* Have you explained about school meals? Where do sandwich-eaters go? Have you been tactful in explaining free meals?

* What's a planner for? Who should see a homework diary?

* Is the information you have about parents and contact numbers accurate?

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