Leading Together-Making Progression from Primary to Secondary better

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.

  1. 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?
  2. 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?
  3. 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;
  1. Is the work that the year 7 children are producing of the same standard now as their KS2 SATS score would suggest?
  2. 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?
  3. 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!


5 thoughts on “Leading Together-Making Progression from Primary to Secondary better

  1. Michael Tidd

    The one thing I say every time any transition discussion happens is this: primary teachers knew their children.
    As you rightly point out, transition isn’t a one-off event, but a progression, and in my experience y6 teachers (or y7 teachers in our case) are always keen to hear how their charges are getting on at secondary. More significantly, they are also always more than happy to talk about those children.
    If a child seems to be struggling in the early weeks and months of secondary, contact their primary teacher for insight. If a child seems not to be living up to the levels they’ve been awarded, contact their primary teacher. If you’re unexpectedly struggling with attendance or punctuality for specific individuals, contact their primary teacher. You cannot overestimate the wealth of knowledge a primary school teachers had about his or her children and their families, nor the genuine care they have for their well-being, even after moving on!

  2. Primary prowess

    On several occasions my primary colleagues and I have invited secondary colleagues to join our writing moderation. On every occasion- regardless of the different schools involved, the secondary colleagues were a lot more generous than the primary eg describing as a level 5 work we deemed a borderline 3/4. And on every occasion prior to actually looking, they had assumed that it was primary who were generous and secondary strict.
    I reckon that part of the problem is that all children dip over the summer and it can take at least until October for the children to get back in track- and December before they actually make progress. So the yr3 teacher thinks the yr2 teacher is too soft, while the yr4 teacher casts aspersions upon the yr3 teacher’s judgement and so in, up the year groups. But the yr3 & 4 teacher are friends and can see that the other is a god teacher. When you work in different institutions it’s easier to assume the worst! So well done on building bridges to share practice. Of course our yr6 come into yr7 below their May peak performance. June and July are spent doing some maths and English, but nothing like the intense ‘ steroid fuelled’ booster work that has been the norm from January to May. Rather they will rediscover the joys of art, school trips, end of year productions as well as doing sex ed! Then August is the holidays. No wonder they dip- it would be incredible if they didn’t. The point is to accept that these yr7 s are more than capable of working at their sats level – once they have warmed up a bit! We gave our secondary copies if writing from our pupils to stuck it their English bins to remind them if what they can achieve.
    My colleagues and I noticed when our own children transferred to various different secondaries that the expectations for writing were so much lower. Whereas we in primary insisted that children applied the same standards when writing in history of geography, our own children wrote sloppy level 3 types answers. Cue shouting matches as primary teacher parent looks at offspring’ s risible yr7 history homework. ‘ Why no higher level connectives? Why no complex sentences…. Have you completely forgotten your level 5 APP grid??’
    ‘ But my history teacher says it’s ok. We don’t have to do that stuff anymore etc. etc.’. ( Lots of our children go to outstanding secondaries, btw). And the level of marking…. while we appreciate that a secondary English teacher has an impossible marking workload, we don’t understand just how infrequently and sparsely work is marked. Success criteria seem mainly unknown. Again, this reflects what we’ve seen with our own children in different outstanding secondary schools. Maybe our experiences are unusual, and in the end the schools get great results, but it did feel that for brighter children, ks3 was at best treading water. So hats off to you for having a genuine attempt to learn from each other and to emphasize progression rather than transition.
    It often seems that secondaries have a sort of ‘noblesse oblige’ character to their work with the lowly primaries, so to read about genuine partnership between equals is refreshing.

  3. Amanda Vinall

    I am delighted that so much thought has been given to this, I think, extremely important subject. My son found the transition (progress) very difficult. My daughter will be doing this in September. I believe in some ways she is more likely to adapt and in others, very vulnerable. Two points from me. One, speak to current Y7s. Find out what would have worked for them. They are the ones who know. Two. Be very careful which teachers teach Y7. You know that teachers have strengths and weaknesses. Y7s need to feel safe and secure above all else. This means “strictness” and kindness from Y7 teachers. That’s how 11 and 12 year old pupils feel safe.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s