Supporting transition

The Learning Away partnerships in the first phase of the project had plans to use residential to support the transition between each key stage. It was the impact of this approach at the transition from primary to secondary school that stood out the most during the study. Nevertheless, significant benefits were also found at the boundaries of Key Stages 1-2 and 3-4.

At the transition from Key Stage 2 to 3 it was relationships that were of most significance. The Learning Away approach of inviting schools to work in partnerships brought primary schools together with each other and with linked secondary schools. Offering residentials that brought together primary pupils from several schools so that new friendships were forming before the move to the big school was a common tactic. This strategy was enhanced when students from the secondary school were also involved in Year 6 residentials, especially when they supported them as student leaders. Likewise, spending time with the teachers who would work with the children when they entered Year 7 was of considerable value. Year 7 teachers reported that they could be half a term ahead by the New Year because students settled quickly and were engaged with their work.

The Walney partnership invited year 6 pupils to co-construct their transition residential. They started by asking them what they thought the challenges of going to secondary school might be. They then asked them what, from their experience of being away on residentials, could help them to face up to these challenges and what activities would best support this. This then became the programme for the residential. It resulted in some surprising suggestions such as ‘telling scary stories to each other in the tent at night’! This partnership also created a student-led evaluation activity using beads to represent different transition skills. These were awarded during the residential by anyone to those they thought deserved them and served to highlight the development of resilience. You can read more about co-constructing brilliant residentials with students in our free Co-construction resource.

One secondary school ran subject-based residentials with a vertical age structure across the Key Stage 3-4 boundary. This had the impact of increasing recruitment to the subjects involved and raising the attainment of the older students. In addition, the senior students took on leadership roles in extra-curricular clubs such as PE and drama and assisted primary staff in their teaching, creating an unanticipated transition benefit at Key Stage 2-3.

Several primary school partnerships found the same benefits could be gained by running residentials for pupils across the Key Stage 1-2 transition boundary including employing Key Stage 2 pupils as leaders on the residential and, later, in the school. If you would like to read more about taking younger children away on residentials, have a look at our free Early Years and Key Stage 1 resource.


Be inspired by our case studies from Learning Away schools, or scroll down for specific case studies about transition.

Explore Getting Started and access free resources to help you plan your own brilliant residentials.

Have a look at our theory about how change happens on brilliant residentials.

Read our recommendations for schools, providers, policy makers and researchers. 

Read our independent evaluation report.