Research shows that students in year 6 often have anxieties about the social aspects of transition, plus practical concerns such as getting lost in a much larger school, coping with a timetable for the first time and multiple pieces of homework (reference – Nuffield Foundation report).
We often have whole-school transition arrangements to help with this change (usually lead by the year 7 pastoral team) such as allocating mentors from higher years or grouping students with primary school friends. But - what can you do in your own subject lessons to help students feel connected and part of the new school?
The first step is to build a supportive environment by looking at your class as a learning team - they will be used to knowing who they are learning with from year 6. You could consider using discussion starters in lessons such as the suggestions in this earlier thread, or ones where the students’ opinions are important and listened to, such as questions about their experiences of science in real life.
Try also using starters that bring out learning from primary school such as ‘what do you already know about mixtures?’, use inclusive language about your class such as ‘we are all going to….’ and praise how well your class have done as a whole. Students will then feel like they have an environment they ‘belong’ in, but can also ask for support if they are worried about something. A lot of year 7 students will be really excited about science at secondary school and being in the lab, so you will able to set a positive tone in lessons immediately.
It also crucial to make sure parents are involved in successes and concerns at an early stage, but also support students when they are finding it tough. This is where you may have school systems already in place to highlight events - eg positive phones calls home and home school planners. This previous thread has ideas on this - and you might like to extend this in science to engagement about this vibrant and interesting subject itself, for example with careers and encouraging home conversations. Parents can often be a real help if they know early enough that students are struggling with organisation - such as getting homework in on time - so make sure this is flagged to them if it becomes more than an unusual mistake.
Finally, consider the academic transition in your subject. At the start of term, ensure you are familiar with any results of tests and primary school teacher assessments, as these will often show who may need further support. It is also where diagnostic questions, such as the BEST Evidence in Science Teaching (BEST) resources Best Evidence Science Teaching | STEM or assessment for learning strategies can be useful to identify the key issues in student understanding and then address them.
It’s easy to overlook the concerns that students will have in moving schools, but each and every teacher can make sure they are doing their bit to make this a smooth and supportive transition!
Share your ideas on supporting this challenging transition in the Teaching 11-19 Science group.