Supporting the transition to secondary school in Barrow-in-Furness

Key features

  • Co-creation approach involves pupils in setting priorities, increasing engagement
  • Embedded reward system specifically targeting beneficial behaviours
  • Low-cost model

Well-designed residentials can help students make a successful transition from Key Stage 2 to 3.

Year 7 teachers from the Walney School have observed that students who have taken part in the partnership’s transition camps make a better start to their first term at secondary school.

Walneyʼs Learning Away partnership is made up of five primary schools and one secondary school in Barrow-in-Furness, and has a central focus on improving primary to secondary transition.

Key outcomes include:

  • Increased engagement: the co-construction approach actively involves pupils in setting priorities and planning their learning, which they enjoy.
  • Enhanced life skills relevant to transition: teachers and pupils have both reported improved self-esteem, confidence, sociability, communication, respect, responsibility and joining in.
  • Opportunities for student leadership / mentoring.
  • Improved community cohesions: a community of schools working in close partnership, with pupils across a locality having shared experiences and expectations.

How the programme is run

Year 6 pupils and staff from the primary schools camp overnight, over a five-day period, in one of the schoolʼs grounds. The aims and implementation are planned by a steering group of staff and the programme of activities is designed using a co-construction model; pupils and staff work together to create opportunities that will improve learnersʼ confidence, social skills and lay a strong foundation for a positive smooth transition.

Cross partnership co-construction sessions are held to identify target skills, and plan activities to develop and recognise them, thus building a shared vision for the programme. These sessions involve a teacher and two pupils from each school; tasks include deciding how the camp should be set up, and identifying the skills and experiences required for successful transition. Ideas are further developed back in school in workshops led by trained Year 7 students during which the whole class determine the transition issues they feel should be addressed – such as making friends with people from their ‘new’ school. As a result of this whole process, six key transition skills have been identified: confidence, communication, bravery, respect, responsibility and joining in.

What happens during a typical transition camp?

The transition camp takes place in the grounds of Ormsgill Primary School, over four 24-hour cycles in the Summer term.  This enables the programme to be sustainable and cost effective. It also helps work towards the shared goal of improving community cohesion, as members of the community can see what is happening in the school grounds.

Groups of 50 pupils are staggered throughout the week – the first group arrives at 11am on the first day, and leaves next day after lunch. The departing group strikes camp and then has lunch. The arriving group has lunch and pitches their camp afterwards. Each group is arranged so that pupils are from mixed schools, but are all starting at the same secondary school together next year.  Year 10 students attend to act as mentors.

The pupils take part in a cycle of four activities including a session of free time. Activities usually include rock climbing, orienteering and problem solving and are designed to build self-esteem, confidence and teamwork skills, having been designed collaboratively by the staff and pupils. During free time, pupils choose different things to do, such as football, trampolining or chatting in their tents. This important time gives them a chance to get to know each other and discover shared interests.

Pupils stay in their friendship groups whilst sleeping, but are grouped with different children during activities in order to ‘take them out of their comfort zone’ and to demonstrate how they can work together as a team – to each other and to their secondary teachers. Another important aspect is learning basic life skills; they make fires, clear up the camp, make packed lunches, prepare and serve meals on a limited budget. For some this is the first time they have slept away from home or have sat down together to eat at a table.

The co-construction process has also developed a novel way of recognition and reward when transition skills had been achieved – of beads on bracelets. A different bead represents each skill and both pupils and staff can award them if they show clear evidence of behaviours and actions to back up their recommendations. At one camp, when a teacher was thought by the children to be awarding beads too freely they objected and emphasised the importance of evidence in awarding beads; they didn’t want the skills or the award system to be devalued! The children have chosen to wear the bracelets in Year 7 as a sign to each other of their shared experiences and friendships.