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Research insights for children moving up to secondary school published

2 September 2020

UCL Institute of Education (IOE) academics have developed research-based leaflets for new Year 7 pupils and secondary school teachers to help incoming pupils adjust to a new stage in their schooling.

Teacher speaking to class. Image: Phil Meech for UCL Institute of Education

The new school year is set to be markedly different, following school closures in March 2020 as a response to curb the infection rate of the COVID-19 pandemic.

To help with the transition from primary to secondary school following lockdown, Dr Sandra Leaton Gray and Dr Jane Perryman have led an initiative to create special guidance for pupils and their teachers based on the latest research. The guidance acknowledges that everyone’s learning experiences during lockdown are unique and that it will take time to adjust to a new school with new classmates and teachers.

The leaflet for teachers notes that pupils will arrive back at school with a wide variety of experiences, losses and learning over the pandemic period. It gives pointers from the research literature as to how schools and pupils can best work together to move forwards, for example by avoiding irreversible setting or streaming, and prioritising relationship building even more than usual during the first weeks and months.

Many, especially those with particular learning needs, or from badly-hit groups, will feel particularly insecure or concerned after missing usual Year 6 transition routines, and having experienced little ‘normal’ schooling over the previous six months. Those with the greatest concerns or with experience of significant trauma may not be able to accommodate new expectations, or concentrate, as well as they normally would.

The authors stress that teachers can help by demonstrating positive expectations and providing opportunities for physical activity where possible. They emphasise that the priority should be on student and teacher welfare rather than plugging academic gaps, as everyone adapts to a new way of approaching schooling.

Dr Sandra Leaton Gray said: “This UCL Coronavirus Response funding came just at the right time, unlocking an extraordinary collective research effort over the last two months. The response from colleagues across the Institute of Education has been incredible, allowing us to reach out in new ways to the people who need our educational expertise most, namely children and their teachers.”

Dr Jane Perryman said: “As parents of Year 6/7 pupils, we really hope that the guidance will help this cohort deal with this challenging context. It’s crucial that they are able to navigate the space between anxiety and excitement, and our key message would be to be kind to themselves and ask for support from family, friends and teachers.”

The leaflets were created as part of a rapid response COVID-19 related project which is looking at primary to secondary school admission. The project is funded by the UCL Coronavirus Response Fund.

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Credit: Phil Meech for UCL Institute of Education