Transition from Primary to Secondary School: Current Arrangements and Good Practice in Wales

Robert Smith, Robat Powell, Gareth Jones, Angharad Reakes

01 October 2006

The importance of effective and appropriate arrangements for the transfer of pupils from primary to secondary schools as a means of ensuring continuity and progression in pupils’ education is now widely recognised as a crucial factor in school improvement. This research will examine the current arrangements of LEAs and schools in Wales regarding pupil transfer from Key Stage 2 to Key Stage 3, analyse them in the light of practice in other parts of the UK and European Union, and identify examples of good practice in various aspects of this area.

About the study

Secondary schools used a range of processes to inform parents. The process of introducing Year 6 pupils to secondary schools usually involved visits from secondary school staff to the primary schools and visits by Year 6 pupils to the secondary schools. In some examples Year 7 pupils were involved in this process.

Although teachers now know more about the curriculum and teaching and learning in other phases than in the past, the amount of mutual knowledge and understanding was still considered to be inadequate by many teachers and headteachers. Joint in-service training and specific projects focusing on bridging the gap between KS2 and KS3 were the most effective ways of promoting greater understanding among teachers of other phases. Many of these had been supported by the LEAs and were seen by them to be of great value. The curriculum links which had been developed were strongest in the core subjects.

At the time of the research, most secondary schools received information about KS2 tests results together with teacher comments about pupils. Standardised arrangements had been developed whereby primary schools were provided with agreed forms to use. Most primary and secondary school practitioners felt that the information that was transferred was adequate although there was some concern that schools did not maximise the potential of the data which they were given.

More formal policies on the transfer of pupils with SEN had been developed which reflected a history of cooperation between primary and secondary schools, and which also involved the LEAs. The SEN coordinators at the secondary schools were expected to visit primary schools and to attend statement review meetings. The information gathered through these arrangements informed decisions about the support which was given to pupils with SEN in the secondary schools. It was noted that there was a need to address the arrangements to transfer pupils with SEN who were not statemented.

Investigating the problem
The research was conducted using a combination of desk-based work to examine evidence of good practice in transition and a programme of visits to primary and secondary schools throughout Wales to discuss the issue of transition with headteachers, transition coordinators, teachers and the children and young people involved.

Conclusions/recommendations

The research found that there was a need to improve overall attainment at KS3 in Wales. Some primary schools believed that there was a need for secondary schools to do more to build on the work pupils achieved in KS2 and that a strengthened pastoral system was required. Secondary schools felt that pupils progressed in KS3 but that this had not always been identified in the SATS tests. The teaching styles and organisation of secondary schools meant that it often took time for some pupils to adjust and to become more independent and self-reliant learners.

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