Whilst we all accept change is a part of life and change can be a good thing, never the less change can be hard. We all find comfort in things which are familiar and have ways that we prepare ourselves for changes ahead of us.
In the context of school life, transition from primary to secondary school is one of the biggest changes and whilst opening up lots of new and exciting opportunities, can also provoke anxiety for all pupils. For pupils with SEND, this is particularly the case. It is often in our experience a really difficult time for families too as they worry about their little ones making this next big step.
In this blog I write from our own experience @camberwellpark school in supporting our pupils and their families through the experience in order to make it as positive and successful as possible.
Whilst this blog is focussed on the change from primary to secondary school, managing change is something we support our pupils with throughout their time in school from day to day changes of time – table / rooms / activities through to changing to new classes at the end of the year. This can include use of visual schedules, now and next cards, social stories, circle time activities – what ever is relevant, appropriate and useful for individual pupils as like us, all of our pupils respond differently and need different levels and methods of support.
With regards to transition to high school, our positive and collaborative relationship with @NorthRidgeSch where most of our pupils move on to is integral to making our pupil’s transition successful. The headteacher or other senior colleague from the school attends the annual reviews for all of our year 5 pupils to start to get to know them and to share information about the school with their parents. She also welcomes families of year 5 pupils to visit the school. We find families value the opportunities to talk to us about their child’s move to high school as over the years we build a relationship of trust and support, as well as talking to staff from the high school so that they can feel reassured and have any questions they have answered directly.
Whilst the transition plan follows a general format of a programme of visits for the pupils in year 6 to their high school during the summer term, it is important for us to consider the individual needs of the pupils and where needed offer additional visits / support or indeed recognise for some pupils the programme of visits may be unhelpful in terms of them managing the change. It is our knowledge of the pupils that enables us to work with them in a way which is most helpful to them. We ensure we staff the visits with staff from our school who know the pupils well and who are best placed to share relevant info with high school staff as well as support the pupils on their visits. The visits are gradually increased in length from a short visit with a drink in the community cafe, extended over a period of weeks to include lunch and eventually full days. This is accompanied by relevant work back at own own school in relation to the change – work on feelings as well as practical aspects of the move to the new school.
Pupil voice is very important to us and whilst through our observations of the pupils and informal conversations with them we felt our transition programme was positive and effective, we wanted to investigate this further so we set about doing a pupil questionnaire – completed during year 6 before the move to high school and repeated during year 7 after the move.
Here is a case study of one of our pupils
Transfer to High School : Case study
M was a Y6 pupil in Summer 2016 who was transferring to Northridge High School in September 2016.
He had been on 7 visits to his new class/school, starting with a one hour visit/tour of the school and finishing with a full day visit.
M had been asked during the start of his transition visits, ( Easter 2016 onward) a few simple questions. Familiar symbols were used to support M understanding the questions. His answers are in bold below written as they were said.
· How was your first visit to your new school? ‘I liked it and was excited.’
· What did you like? ‘I like the radio room they had a real microphone and I like the cafe’
· What did you not like? ‘ I liked everything’
· Are you worried about anything? Why? ‘ I am a little bit nervous it will be hard to know where to get the fruit and milk from’
The answers that M gave were then discussed with him, and strategies put into place to further support his anxieties/transition process.
M was then asked some questions in November 2016 once his move to high school was complete.
· Have you settled into your new school? ‘Yes’
· What do you really like about your new school? ‘The “cafe, mugger and the football”’
· Did you have enough visits to Northridge when you were at Camberwell? ‘Yes’
· Would you have liked some visits to last longer? ‘No ok’
· Could Camberwell Park have done anything else to help you move to your new school? ‘ “A nufer day”
The responses from M and the other year 6 pupils have been used for us to continue to shape and develop our transition processes for all of the pupils moving on to high school so that we can confidently feel they are effectively prepared for the next stage of education.
We are discussing how we support our pupils to manage changes of all different sorts on @SENexchange at 8 – 8.30 p.m. on Wednesday 14th June 2017. It would be great if you could join us and share your good practice too