Preparing For The Year 6 Transition: How To Make Sure Your Pupils Are Ready For Secondary School
The Year 6 transition may be a yearly occurrence but it is something that never gets any easier for teachers or pupils! Fortunately, experienced Year 6 teacher Emily Weston (@primaryteachew) has some excellent advice drawn from her experience working with local secondary schools on how you can help your pupils transition from Year 6 to Year 7 as smoothly as possible!
While much of the advice contained in this article is still very relevant we have an update for 2020 for those managing the transition from primary to secondary school during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Every Year 6 teacher knows there are two key parts to this primary year group.
The first is obvious, and it is the SATs.
The second though doesn’t happen until after the excitement of the tests, and it is the Year 6 transition.
Time To Focus Now On The Year 6 Transition
Every year, after SATS, Year 6 teachers send their classes off to a variety of secondary establishments and each child will handle this move very differently.
As they’ve progressed up through primary school, Year 6 pupils have become big fish in a small pond and are (mostly) ready to move on to the next stage of their life: to make new friends, develop their knowledge and learn even more life skills.
The process is daunting; not just for the children, but also the teacher.
Having had previous experience in a small village school where nearly every child went to the local secondary, it was a very different experience this year to have children from my class go to around 8 different schools ranging from grammar schools to a specialist school for autism.
Each of these schools will expect different forms, activities and transition days to be completed before the child begins in September.
Each school will also want to know all about the children that are coming to them: their academic ability, their strengths, areas that may need support and also about any children who need additional transition for a range of reasons.
But the bottom line each school is trying to discover is whether or not the child ready for secondary?
Are they fully prepared for the transition from Year 6 to secondary school?
Getting The Year 6 Transition Right: Understanding What “Year 7 Ready” Really Means
My local secondary decided to look in more detail, with Year 6 teacher input, at what we expected children to be once they arrived at their new school.
We decided on:
- A Responsible Citizen
- Being a ‘Ready’ Learner
Obviously, there are many other traits we would expect children to have (and then there is the obvious necessity to know their academic ability) but these are the ones that we felt were a good starting point; a strong set of qualities that will help children to cope more fully with the social and emotional sides of secondary life.
But why did we feel that these points in particular were important when looking at the Year 6 to Year 7 transition?
I will break down the reasons for each below.
Independence Skills In Year 6 Pupils
I don’t know about you, but I still have children in my class who always expect everything to be done for them by an adult.
Yes, in Year 6 I still get asked:
‘I’ve finished my book, what do I do?’
‘Miss, I can’t find my pencil.’
The concept of just asking for a new one, or finding a spare, is sometimes still beyond them.
Trying to explain to them that next year they need to remember their own homework, cooking ingredients and a PE kit can sometimes go over their heads because they don’t understand the concept that they would have to do this themselves.
Having to explain this concept to a primary mind is a particularly difficult part of the Year 6 transition!
Even when being spoken to about an incident (we use restorative justice at our school) you find the word ‘but’ will appear all too often. No, it isn’t always their fault and it is really important to find out what happened before, but I often find they some pupils don’t take ownership of their actions – whatever the provocation.
At secondary, pupils will be increasingly expected to do this; to understand how to handle situations without always blaming another or to understand how they can have more ownership of their own actions in the future.
That of course goes alongside a task that most of us struggle with on occasion, namely having to get themselves prepared each morning!
Organisation Skills In Year 6 Pupils
For me, this is one of the most key components to being successful at secondary school.
When there, pupils will need to:
- Use a timetable to get to different lessons;
- Know where they are going around the school;
- Plan how to prioritise their homework;
- Get their appropriate equipment ready.
I think, sometimes, that it’s easy to forget that these skills will need to be taught for some children.
They won’t have had to do this before.
In most primary schools, pupils:
- Aren’t expected to move round buildings;
- Have books that will be kept in school for them;
- Can leave PE kits in school;
- Don’t have to provide additional equipment like pens and rulers.
During the first few weeks, it can be quite overwhelming remembering all this information.
However, by giving them some key skills and strategies, it will ease the process and let them focus more on what we might consider as ‘bigger’ obstacles they may have.
Because of this, I’ve produced a lesson that (I think!) will help them find different strategies to assist them during this transition time, as well as during their first few weeks. This is based around the day of a student who has just made the same transition as they are going to be doing themselves.
Year 6 Transition Lesson: Organisational Skills
Download this free PowerPoint lesson to help your Year 6 class test their organisational skills during the Year 6 to Year 7 transition.
These are skills that seem so obvious to us, as teachers, but children may not have actually come across before, and this is something that is important to remember.
Making Them Into A Responsible Citizen
Most primary schools will have values children have to use within their daily life; values that we expect them to show and that we model ourselves.
To some degree these do make them ‘responsible citizens’- of course we want children who are honest, thankful, generous and kind. But I don’t believe this is solely what being a responsible citizen is.
My class (and I hope it isn’t just my class who were like this!) were not aware of a lot of world issues around them that they can have an impact on, even just through discussion.
We recently read ‘Boy at the Back of the Class’ (Onjali Q Rauf) and most of the children in my class were not aware of what a refugee even was.
This book helped open their eyes to a new part of the world and some of the things that are going on in it, (which is why I am so keen to ensure there are a wide range of books available within school!) and allowed them to see issues they could help one-day champion.
Issues they could become passionate about and help to positively affect later in life.
There are also more obvious topics – lessening plastic use, recycling and looking after the environment.
Every child has access to things that will help them with their understanding of their own impact on the world around them, but developing them as a responsible citizen isn’t just understanding it, it’s getting them to be proactive in making a change, a difference, to their community, and to their world.
As they move on to secondary, this is something that they will become more aware of, and learn more about.
I know some primary schools will already be amazing at this before their children move on, but I personally think this can sometimes become lost in primary, and what better time for a project on this than in that post-SATs void?
It’s like a ready made slot that enables us as teachers to help with the Year 6 transition.
Encouraging Resilience In Year 6
The definition of resilience is ‘the capacity to recover quickly from difficulty or toughness’.
When we hear the word difficulty or toughness in relation to transition, our minds often jump straight to the children who might have SEND, or children who are in a nurture group, and often, this is rightly so.
They will often need additional transition days, meetings and coaching through the process.
But often, we won’t consider the children who just get on with it.
They might be feeling extremely nervous on the inside but because they don’t show it. We assume they’re doing fine, and often they aren’t as prepared as we perceive them to be and could potentially struggle with the Year 6 to Year 7 transition.
By giving children understanding of what resilience is, and an understanding of what obstacles they may encounter on transition days before they go on to secondary school, we can help these quietly nervous children feel (even if only slightly) more confident during the process.
Other than (potentially) one or two meetings with the secondary school, they won’t be given much more direct information about what is going to happen, why it is happening, and what this means for them.
This is less than ideal as information is the first tool to helping a child to be resilient.
The second, however, is helping children learn to manage mistakes.
This is something that as teachers, we all do all the time. We are always helping children see how they can reflect on their work to get the correct answer, or decide ‘what would you do differently next time?’
But, along with independence itself, this is something that is harder for children to grasp the concept of having to do on their own.
With coaching, they can often overcome an error and succeed. But what about next year, when there is less adult support? Or an adult who, initially, will not know them as well? They will need to understand how to overcome these issues alone.
Making Sure Pupils Are Self-Sufficient & Ready To Learn
These two tie together really easily.
Being self-sufficient is being able to problem-solve and deal with more of the ‘emotional’ problems, which again, are dealt with much more frequently for them within primary schools.
Every day (it feels like anyway!) I have children come up to me declaring things like:
‘He kicked the ball away from me!’ – They’re playing football…
‘She didn’t talk to me all break time!’ – Did you try and talk to them? No….?
‘But he said he was going to tell on me!’ – Well, as you then kicked him I’m not altogether surprised…
It is often these issues that prevent children from being ‘Ready to Learn’.
It’s these issues that prevent them from being able to walk straight into a classroom and be prepared to get started on their lesson from the moment they sit down on their seats.
Again, we need to give them the tools to solve their own problems in order to allow them to come back from break or lunchtime having already solved these issues among themselves.
There will always be problems that we will need to help children with, but in my classroom I’m trying to ask more questions now, or give them time to think about how they want me to resolve it for them before I then step in.
The Post SATs Lull Is The Perfect Time To Focus On The Year 6 Transition
We are really lucky that after SATs, it lends us some time that we can dedicate to focusing on these skills and prepare our class for what is in store.
By now, most children will begin to get restless and feel as though they are ready to move on, and this can be for a number of reasons.
However, in the 21st century classroom, one of the main reasons for this is social media.
By having access to the world at their fingertips, it can affect their perception of what is age-appropriate. They will feel much older than their 10 or 11 years, especially in comparison to the younger year groups within the school.
It also makes them more (in their eyes) world-savvy, and as a result they will often research more about what their school is like, what to expect and read stories about what secondary is like.
This can often be a useful tool for them: they find information relevant to their school and it can make it seem more ‘real’ before they get to the physical building after the Year 6 to 7 transition takes place.
Social Media Can Make The Year 6 To Secondary School Transition Seem Scary
Even with there being a large number of positive secondary school stories out there, chances are that some pupils will manage to find negative ones too.
Our local secondary sent a teacher to give a clear, insightful view into what secondary was like – to give them knowledge and ease those ‘is it true…’ questions they will have developed through their own research and space to think.
By creating an open and honest line of communication between the children and both primary and secondary teachers, it allowed them to see the importance of investing their own time into getting prepared.
By making the process ‘normalised’ – seeing a range of teachers, having it discussed in more ‘real’ terms and being exposed to processes and skills they will need to use, we are providing children with a clear pathway to follow.
In turn, this will morph what seems to be an overwhelming process into a step-by-step guide to being a successful secondary student.
Preparing for the transition from Year 6 to Year 7 can seem like a difficult process for both teachers and pupils, but with some careful planning it doesn’t have to be.
By working on the skills discussed above with your Year 6 class before they move on to secondary school, you can ensure that each and every one of your pupils is ready to enjoy and get the most from the Year 6 transition and everything that comes after it!
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How Third Space Learning Has Helped 1000s Of Pupils Prepare For The Year 6 Transition
Here at Third Space Learning we have helped to give a huge number of Year 6 pupils the foundations in maths they need to succeed in secondary school. Our tutors are trained in how to plug knowledge gaps before the Year 6 to Year 7 transition takes place, so as a teacher you can rest assured that you will be sending your pupils off with all of the skills they will need to succeed!
We’ve even got a Secondary Transition Maths Test you can do to gauge their gaps in maths for Year 7.
Do you have pupils who need extra support in maths?
Every week Third Space Learning’s maths specialist tutors support thousands of pupils across hundreds of schools with weekly online 1-to-1 lessons designed to plug gaps and boost progress. Since 2013 we’ve helped over 60,000 primary school pupils become more confident, able mathematicians. You can learn more about our interventions or request a personalised quote for your school to speak to us about your school’s needs and how we can help.