Review by Zara Simpson

Deputy head of prep, Streatham and Clapham High Schoo

25 May 2024, 5:00


The Conversation – with Zara Simpson

The final push 

With the end of the academic year in sight, pupils across the country are gearing up for end-of-year exams, embarking on enriching residentials and eagerly anticipating what the new academic year will hold. For many, this is a time of endings and new beginnings. For others, the transition brings a mix of emotions, from excitement to anxiety. 

Transitioning between year groups (especially moving from primary to secondary school) can be a daunting experience. This pivotal moment is often accompanied by questions such as, “Will I like it there? Will I make friends? How will I manage the new demands of a challenging curriculum?” These are natural fears of the unknown. 

As a deputy head teacher, I see first-hand the significance of this transition, particularly focusing on the mental health challenges and anxiety that many Year 6 pupils experience. Ensuring a smooth transition involves a multifaceted approach. 

So I was glad, in the course of my research, to find a range of useful support online. Beyond practical resources for primary and secondary schools like those from the Anna Freud Centre for mental health research, I also came across some useful blogs.

Among these was this gem from Natalie Fogden for HFL Education sharing insights on facilitating a seamless transition for pupils with SEND. And for a comprehensive look at the issue, I found  Sita Brahmachari’s blog, with a toolkit for transition particularly useful.

If you want to join the conversation, share your own great practice or network with others to develop your transition work, there are opportunities for that too. The National Literacy Trust is hosting an online event discussing transition to secondary through Matt Goodfellow’s book, The Final Year. Meanwhile, founder of the Shy and Mighty podcast, Nader Finer is hosting a webinar for teachers in June which provides guidance on supporting students into Year 7. 

Schools are already doing lots, of course, but amid a youth mental health crisis it’s vital we do everything we can to ensure pupils feel prepared, supported and confident for the next chapter in their educational journey.

Support with reports 

The summer term also brings the production of end-of-year reports. As a deputy headteacher, it’s crucial to me that these meaningfully reflect each pupil’s academic development, social growth and overall wellbeing.

However, achieving consistency and fairness can be challenging due to varying teaching styles and pupil needs. Clear expectations and standardised criteria are vital to ensure accuracy and meaningful reflection of each pupil’s progress. 

It’s in this context that I found Professor Rose Luckin’s edtech podcast on AI in education particularly useful. Here, she discusses AI as a tool for equity in learning, highlighting its potential to analyse data, provide early interventions and enhance accessibility.

We’re not there yet, but there’s substantial benefit on the horizon in terms of workload and consistency if AI can help with this vital yet time-consuming task. 

The digital transition

Which brought me to thinking more broadly about education in our digital age and striking the right balance between promoting digital literacy and avoiding over-exposure.

In school, our key considerations include ensuring software aligns with curriculum goals, is purposefully integrated into teaching and learning, and doesn’t lead to an over-reliance on screens that undermines physical activity and wellbeing.

But of course, this affects pupils at home too. How can we set children homework on screens and simultaneously discourage unhealthy tech use?

This week, Streatham & Clapham High School headteacher, Cathy Ellott shared her view on schools’ duty to guide parents on controlling smartphone use. And she’s far from alone in considering agency, risk and safety in this context. This blog from the Council of British International Schools  does just that, and this European Schoolnet podcast also includes discussion on screen time and mobile use in schools.  

So as I sign off from this column for this year, my thoughts aren’t just on school transition as an event for children. More broadly, it’s clear school itself is in the grip of a transition. It’s on us to harness the benefits and minimise the risks.

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