An adventurous early career change saw me move from being a primary school teacher in London to teaching English at a Secondary school in Manchester! As a result, I was then very lucky to meet and later work with Ruth Sutton (Primary to Secondary Transition ‘Overcoming the Muddle in the Middle – 2000) at Manchester Inspection and Advisory Service as it was then called.
Little did I know then how much that confluence of circumstances would go on to influence my learning and practise throughout my professional working life, and how it continues to do so today.
While working at that secondary school, my very pragmatic Headteacher at the time decided that I would be a good candidate to build relationships with the local ‘feeder’ schools using some of my ‘free periods’. I was a primary school teacher after all!
It was only when I started to engage in the role, talking to primary colleagues’ children and their families, did I realise the scale of the job. How very important it was to get it right! Not only for the children, and their families, but also my colleagues from both phases. All parties want the children to be happy and to continue their learning journeys to reach their fullest potential.
Meeting Ruth and being guided by her gave me the structure to develop a coherent whole school partnership approach to managing the transition and induction of that cohort of year 6 children and families into our secondary school. It did not do me any harm either, I got promoted to head of year 7!
In her book, Ruth outlines the 5 bridges that support an effective strategy to support transition.
- The managerial/bureaucratic bridge, which is mainly concerned with systems and structures in schools.
- The social bridge, which focuses on efforts to make students feel safe and secure as they move from the primary-school building to the secondary-school building.
- The curriculum-content bridge, which deals with the continuity of content and programming between the primary school and the secondary school.
- The pedagogy bridge, which is concerned not so much with what students learn as with how they learn it.
- The “learning-to-learn” bridge, which focuses on developing and maintaining the metacognitive self-awareness of students, encouraging them to become the “vehicles of their own progression.”
Still in Manchester but now Managing Director of the Parental Engagement Network (PEN) and working closely with networks of schools across the country, we seem in many ways to have come so far since those days: We have technology that supports our systems; structures and communication; a National Curriculum which has ironed out much of the curricula continuity challenges.
BUT equally Ruth’s work still stands, having been off the national agenda for so long, and with other priorities taking precedence, parental engagement in transition had slipped off the list for many schools. Now, the Covid-19 lockdown has thrown it back into the light and schools will need to work even harder to build effective partnerships with families to support the social and emotional wellbeing, personal efficacy and resilience of our children to manage change and become vehicles of their own progression. It is now more important than ever to understand and recognise that the teaching and learning experience in year 6 still differs significantly from how it is delivered and organised in Year 7.
The Parental Engagement Network have developed a set of resources – ‘Moving Up’ – which provide a scaffold for both primary and secondary settings to work effectively together to support families and their children through the transition and induction phases. So very important at this extra ordinary time, we have adapted these resources to manage this process of change even through the current restrictions. The pack includes a series of family home learning activities that can be supported virtually by staff in both the primary and secondary schools.
Moving Up is very much influenced by our learning and our continued work with schools. If you would like to work with us to further develop this and other parental engagement resources, receive free trial materials to support this pack and contribute to parental engagement through our partnership networks, please contact us about becoming a PEN member.Janet Davies, Director of PEN