Pupils influence resources for primary to secondary transition

  • Foundation for people with learning disabilities logoPupils with special educational needs can experience high levels of anxiety when making the transition to secondary school
  • Over half of pupils with statements of SEN are placed in mainstream schools
  • Transition from primary to secondary school is a continuing issue that must be tackled

Today the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities is launching Moving On to Secondary School, guidelines based on a project to support pupils with Special Educational Needs (SEN) make the transition from primary to secondary school.

With over half of pupils with statements of SEN placed in mainstream schools (DfE 2012), the Foundation is calling for pupils to be more involved in the transition planning process and is offering three brand new guides; for parents, teachers and easy-read guidance for year 6 pupils, to help ease the process.

Jill Davies, Research Programme Manager at the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities, said:

We’ve heard from young people themselves how unnerving and stressful the move to secondary school can be, and while schools work hard to ensure the transition goes as smoothly as possible for pupils with SEN needs, it is high time they were put in the driving seat.

“By working with pupils to identify small, achievable steps in the journey, parents, teachers and SENCOs can work harmoniously to bring a greater sense of belonging to the school community and a positive impact on confidence and self-esteem for even the most vulnerable children.”

The Moving On to Secondary School guides were developed directly from the experiences and views of Year 7 pupils, as well as parents, teachers and SENCOs. Designed to provide parents and primary and secondary school teachers with practical suggestions, additional approaches and broader strategic ideas to better plan for transition, it is hoped the guides will bring about a positive new start for pupils with SEN.

The advice is applicable to all pupils making this often daunting transition and includes practical tips to help them prepare for secondary school. Ideas such as: start thinking about getting organised when you are in primary school by taking more responsibility, pack your own bag for school, or start using a diary or timetable.

Other ideas to increase independence include ordering food yourself when you are in cafes or joining your local library. The teachers’ guidelines include suggestions for primary staff, for example, running a regular circle time to talk about the move to secondary school and for secondary school staff, for example, to assign buddies for pupils with SEN.

Julia, a Year 7 student said:

“I didn’t know what to expect from a giant big school. I kept on getting lost and every time I was late for lessons I felt like I was getting into very big trouble because I kept on being late.

Latif, a Year 7 student remembers:

“The playground was really scary on my first day so I went to the learning support base whenever I felt scared or lonely. Now I don’t need to go there very often and I know where everything in the school is, so I’m a lot happier.”

Ann Fergusson, Senior Lecturer in SEN & Inclusion, University of Northampton, said:

“Without the right preparation and support during this time of transition, pupils with SEN can experience emotional upheaval or distress.

“Putting pupils at the heart of the transition process and really involving them makes a real difference. It was inspiring to hear from pupils themselves about the very positive impact even small changes can make to their experiences. They had clear ideas about what helped them and about what would have helped even more.  As a result of greater involvement, pupils with SEN will be enabled to feel better prepared and more confident in their new surroundings; this then contributes to an improved sense of emotional wellbeing both in and outside the classroom.

“School staff and families very generously shared their insights and ideas for these resources to address the issues and challenges pupils with SEN told us about.”

The guides and posters for primary and secondary school teachers, parents and Year 6 pupils can be downloaded online.

About the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities

The Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities is the directorate of the Mental Health Foundation dedicated to helping people with learning disabilities live their lives to the full. This involves influencing government and local authority policies and services so that they better meet the needs of people with learning disabilities, their families and carers; raising awareness of learning disability issues amongst the wider public in order to break down stigma and discrimination; and providing information, resources and services that can help people with learning disabilities lead fuller, more independent lives.


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