Why a positive transition to secondary school matters, and why you should care too
Alex shares her experiences of the Transition to secondary school, and why Leap's programme supporting schools in this area is so important. Get in touch with us if you'd like to partner with us and support Year 6/7 children through their Transition.
My experience of starting secondary school
I remember my first day of secondary school like it was yesterday. I remember getting ready with my new uniform and making sure I had no jewellery on, having my sister do my hair, getting on the bus and making that first solo journey. I also remember the feelings of excitement about being put into my form group and meeting my classmates (there were some nerves too).
Most of that first day went well. That is until I started the journey home where I remember being bullied by another student about my hair. I remember crying sitting at the top of the Number 2 bus and having thoughts like “what's wrong with me? Why are they calling me weird and picking on me? Why are they making fun of my hair? What did I do wrong?”
I also remember my actions following that event - wearing my hood and covering up my hair whenever I could to avoid being picked on for the rest of that year. In my mind, if no one saw my hair, no one could say anything. This kept me hidden and stopped me from getting involved in a lot of things the school were running which affected my confidence. It was made worse by the fact that I didn't know who to go to for support or how to help myself feel better.
Supporting young people through the transition into secondary school is something I am passionate about. At Leap, we believe that conflict is inevitable in life. Conflict can take different forms. It is not just about confrontation or violence you hear about in communities. In my case, conflict was about my struggles with insecurity and self-identity and my experience in secondary school.
Unfortunately, I’m not an isolated case. Research shows that in addition to worries about being bullied, young people going through this transition can also experience worries about making friends and being accepted, as well as emotions ranging from excitement to sadness. In addition, moving into secondary school often coincides with children going through adolescence, which brings its own set of challenges. There is no doubt that this is one of the biggest changes a young person will go through.
What are the consequences of a negative transition?
A negative transition can have a devastating impact on a young person, resulting in a range of negative outcomes including poor wellbeing, challenging behaviour, low education and attainment.
It can also have long term consequences such as poor mental health with some students developing depression and anxiety.
But, when support is provided, the transition can be a positive experience.
When supported adequately, young people can have a positive experience in secondary school, through feeling a sense of belonging to school and being academically engaged in school (Nuffield, 2011).
This is why it’s vital that students are supported through the transition.
What is 'Take the Leap'?
Take the Leap is our programme funded by The Constable Educational Trust, focusing on supporting young people transitioning into secondary school. Its aim is to support young people to have a successful transition into secondary school by working with young people in both primary and secondary schools to equip them with skills, tools, and strategies to implement during this change and beyond. The programme recognises the important role teachers and parents play during this time, and the programme also involves running training and workshops with these adults.
As mentioned, this is not a new area for Leap. From previous work we’ve delivered with primary school students, when asked what they were taking away from the programme, one student shared:
"A lot of things - socialising, meeting new people, dealing with feelings and controlling them, dealing with conflict."
A partner involved with our previous delivery in schools shared the following reflections:
The sessions really encouraged young people to take more time to reflect on and recognise their emotions. The activities also helped to boost their self-confidence. By the end of the programme, the young people were equipped with different strategies to use in conflict situations during their transition to secondary school.
All of the activity within the programme is fully funded, however we will require a champion within the school who can assist in the coordination of key activities and provide support around the project.
We have a limited number of schools we can partner with to deliver this amazing work. If you're interested, please get in touch.