How good is the progression from Primary school to Secondary school in your setting?
It is that time of year again. This week, year 6 children up and down the country have opened their e mails or letters from their local authority and now know where they will be going next September. Hopefully, the vast majority of parents will be delighted but I suspect across the country a proportion are not. This is another debate for another day but should serve to remind us that until every family has a good and outstanding school on their doorstep we have some distance to travel to becoming world class.
For the Cabot Learning Federation, we look forward for the first time since we created the CLF in 2009, to Bristol Brunel Academy, Bristol Metropolitan Academy, King’s Oak Academy and John Cabot Academy all being oversubscribed in year 7. I think we do the journey from Primary to Secondary well, but there is more we could do. Hence the purpose of this blog!
I stopped calling the journey from primary to secondary, “transition” when our five primary academies joined the Cabot Learning Federation. Progression is a better term as it implied “progress” rather than “transit”. I am more convinced than ever that we have to be better and better at this. In my most recent away day with my Primary Principals, I posed the following questions as the basis for how we might do this differently in the future.
- What currently prevents progression from our primary academies to our secondary academies being truly outstanding and better than anyone else who performs this responsibility in our region?
- What information should secondary academies make better use of in order to ensure that the learning progression of young people is not deflected in any way?
- If there was one strategy that you could introduce that would improve the current model, what would it be?
I went on to say that whilst changing the model that has been in place pretty successfully for the past ten years presented a risk, we needed to be ambitious in our thinking and I outlined some of the areas I was interested in looking at.
- Is September the best time for year 6 to move to Year 7 or could we do this earlier and before the summer holidays?
- What would be the challenges and risks be of our Year 6 teachers spending a block of time (1 or 2 days) in the main secondary academy where the majority of the children have moved to, in October, February and June of year 7 to see how well they are doing if I could fund cover or release Year 7 and 8 staff to teach the new year 6 for a day at a time?
- Should progression to Secondary start in year 5 with longer periods of induction that take place more frequently, with open evenings in year 5 before the summer holidays?
- How realistic is it that every child attains a level 4 in Reading, Writing and Maths by the end of year 7? Could we create a team of teachers skilled in KS2 and KS3 to support those most likely to miss this target?
The response was exactly what I have come to expect from the Primary Principals in my team. They loved it and we are already planning ways to make the first two bullet points happen later this year. I will be running the same idea past my secondary colleagues in the next two weeks. I await their response with interest but know they will love it as well!!
Another key question that links to progression is the one below.
Question-Do you trust the KS2 SATS scores that year 7 attain before they arrive at your school each September?
I have lost count of the times throughout my career as a headteacher, that I have heard secondary colleagues say this about children in year 7. It is nonsense! Unless we are saying that someone cheated, then the outcomes must be reliable. They are also the outcome of exactly the same tracking, support and interventions that secondary colleagues often use in year 11 when children who are at risk of falling below their target grade earn success and we sees this as a positive! They are also now the students of the secondary school and therefore it is the responsibility of secondary staff to take this starting point and drive progress and attainment from there.
Nevertheless, there are some key strategies that will help colleagues work better together to make more sense of this situation if it exists;
- Instead of working with KS2 and Primary colleagues before the summer holiday in which the children transfer to secondary, make a point of working for six months as well;
- Year 6 teachers should continue their relationship with the students in their classes that have moved on. This is hard to do if your secondary school takes from 50 primary schools, but you only need to work with probably three of four year 6 teachers to get the understanding you want. That understanding for me fits around these three questions;
- Is the work that the year 7 children are producing of the same standard now as their KS2 SATS score would suggest?
- Are the expectations primary colleagues had of the children when they were in year 6 lower or higher than those the secondary teams have of them in year 7 and how do we know that?
- Is the work challenging enough for the students given the experience they had in KS2?
On the next available INSET day in the Primary School, plan a programme that looks like this for year 5 and 6 teachers when they visit a local secondary school;
- Observation of Year 7 lessons
- A “book-look” of year 7 work
- Student voice sample with Year 7 students
- Feedback to the SLT of what the primary staff feel about the learning they have seen
On the next Secondary INSET day, the SLT should identify one teacher from English, Maths, Science and Humanities, accompany them with a member of the leadership team and ask them to spend a day in pairs in four or five primary schools. Plan a programme that looks like this;
- Observe three lessons in Early Years, Year 3 or 4 and Year 5 or 6
- Talk to Year 5 and 6 about their learning
- Do a “book-look” of year 6 work
- Talk to year 6 students about how they are developed as leaders in their primary schools
- Talk to the SLT in the Primary about their vision and plans for their school
This ought to be the core purpose of transition and progression from KS2 to KS3!