The transition points that occur throughout the course of a student’s academic career are pivotal moments that can have a huge bearing on their future progress at school and beyond. A good transition enhances a young person’s their well-being, motivation and attainment. The ramifications of a bad transition for a young person, however, are immense and do not only take effect in the few weeks of the new school year, but can have longer-term consequences on their attainment and mental health. Less advantaged students are more susceptible to experiencing more negative transitions than their more advantaged peers. (National Foundation of Educational Research, “Ensuring Positive Transitions”, 2010)

Phase 1 Transition (Year 6 to 7):

The transition from primary to secondary school is often the most traumatic of all the transition phases a young person encounters during their school life. At this stage students are having to manage heightened levels of responsibility in line with their more senior status within school, as well as contemplating the prospect of beginning secondary school. Pondering life after primary school brings up a range of unknowns:

  • “Who will my friends be?”
  • “What will it be like having more than one teacher?”
  • “How will I find my way around?”
  • “Will I get bullied by the older kids?”
  • “Will I be able to manage with all the extra classwork and homework?”

Alongside this, students are working towards securing as high a level as possible amidst the increased pressure placed on them to achieve well in their end of Key Stage tests.

Phase 2 / 3 Transition (Pre-GCSE)

With there being no formal examinations in Key Stage 3 once students have acclimatised to their secondary school surroundings a certain malaise can set in, as schools direct most of their focus and attention towards Key Stage 4 attainment primarily. The challenge for students, therefore, is maintaining high levels of engagement and continued awareness of the bigger picture during a relatively “low stakes” phase. The risk of coasting up until the point when the pressure is ratcheted up in Key Stage 4 is very high and a worrying reality in most cases.

Phase 5 / 6 Transition (GCSE to A-Level)

The transition from GCSE to A Level is by far the most difficult from an academic stand point. Ultimately, the national curriculum provides students with the knowledge and skills that they require to successfully complete their GCSEs. Yet, for the most part they are required to develop an entirely new skills-set for A-Level in order to be able to access much more academically rigorous content, as well adjust to altered teaching and learning methods which place greater onus on independent inquiry.

On a personal level, students can sometimes find it difficult to come to terms with the new found freedoms that they experience in sixth form or college. If they are not able to organise themselves and manage their time accordingly, they can end up at risk of failing to rise to this challenge. When coupling this with the prospect of having to make key decisions that can have a lasting impact on future progression routes, this can be a very unnerving period.