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Transition doesn't have to be a bumpy ride

As I write, my formerly fit and feisty mother has been admitted to a nursing home that will provide her with 24-hour care. Three months ago she was independent and healthy, but after a series of strokes her life will never be the same again.

The transition from the family home, however, has still been painful; fraught with repeated explanations of why she has had to move, coupled with her attempts to accept that she is inching towards death.

Transitions at any age are potentially tough - if seldom so gloomy. Many of them are landmarks of the education system, from our first day at school to the later leap from secondary school to becoming a university student. But arguably the most important transition is the move from primary to secondary.

Parents mourn the passing of their offspring's babyhood, while children may fear unknown routines and have concerns about bullying. And the transition can be equally difficult for teachers. Those teaching the final years of primary will be trying to give their young charges the best possible preparation, while those in the early years of secondary may often feel anxious about what their new pupils have - or haven't - already learned.

Giving the newcomers oversimplified lessons on topics they may already have covered might comfort some - but it might also switch off the passion for learning in the more able. And swamping them with work at too high a level will be equally daunting and damaging.

Research shows that children who have a troubled transition to secondary often carry the memory of the trauma into their adult life.

This is not a new problem. But increasingly schools are finding ever-more creative ways to solve it. There are transition officers, even transition buildings, to smooth the rite of passage for children and offer them the best start to adult learning.

Most important, the experts insist, is maintaining communication between primary and secondary teachers, parents and the children themselves. There are no hard and fast answers. But if everyone is talking to each other, transition doesn't have to be a bumpy ride.

Jo Knowsley is acting editor of TESpro, jo.knowsley@tes.co.uk @tes.

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