Middle Years Transition - is crucial
The Victorian Auditor General tabled a report in May 2015 on the key transition times in a student’s education. Transition effects student’s learning, and also their development, wellbeing and engagement. The process of transition can be a challenging but also a transformative time for students.
The middle years, defined as the years from Year 5 to Year 8, occurs when students begin puberty. Puberty can have a crucial impact on students and can make their ability to adjust more difficult, in turn impacting their learning.
The Auditor General recommended that the Victorian Department of Education and Training develop a more comprehensive and supportive approach to the transition process in the Middle Years. One of the major recommendations was for the Department of Education and Training to develop an extensive collection of resources to support schools and students. These resources should also include ‘developing transition networks with geographically similar schools and sharing best practice approaches across the school system.’ https://www.audit.vic.gov.au/report/education-transitions?section=32355
National and international research shows that it is not the age of the student that is causing the problem but rather the change itself and that this is the pattern across countries. The social focus of transition is handled well however it is the academic focus that is not always well managed, sometimes it is barely covered. The main problem is that curriculum information, the teaching programs used and the pedagogy focused on, is rarely shared between the primary and the secondary school. The pedagogy around a clear literacy and numeracy continuum suffers during this transition process and this links clearly with the expectations of both the schools and the teachers in primary through to secondary. Through the development of curriculum teams made up of primary and secondary teachers, professional relationships can develop and grow. Clusters of schools within communities that share the learning and teaching of students benefit the more they work together and share curriculum and pedagogy.
The key to these high performing transition clusters is about commitment, commitment from all schools and commitment from leadership through to the teachers, the students and the parents. It is clusters of schools focusing on student learning and teaching rather than the easy, quick one-off transition days that build excitement in students but give them no strong base on which to build their learning or their deeper understandings. The key is working as a team to learn to and from each other and it’s about supporting our students to become engaged and confident lifelong learners.
The Department have noted that though student engagement is increasing overall, it is in the middle years transition that a drop in engagement occurs. The thing that we need to keep in the front of our minds is that engagement is important because it is closely connected to academic achievement. The transition process, exactly because it is a process, doesn’t happen overnight, it is a process years in the making; starting in Year 5 and moving through to Year 8. It’s time for teachers and schools to start making transition a priority, we can’t afford to let any more students fall through the gaps.
The Department of Education and Training, in response to the Auditor General’s report, developed in 2015 "A Toolkit for Transition Clusters: Primary to Secondary" www.education.vic.gov.au/.../principals/transition/Toolkit_TransitionClusters.pdf
This tool kit is a practical guide and gives schools practical tools they can use to guide their cluster development. It is however the ‘Research and Background to DET’s Middle Years Transition Framework’ that caught my eye. http://www.education.vic.gov.au/Documents/school/principals/transition/DETMiddleYearsTransitionsFramework_BackgroundPaper.pdf
This document is an informative and useful resource as it clearly outlines what supports a successful transition program. After summarising research in the area of what makes a successful transition program, they combined the research into three main areas: 1 - Planning for learning continuity, differentiation, progression and engagement; 2 – Facilitating institutional adjustment; 3 – Supporting students’ social adjustment. These three main areas or elements, are then divided into sub-elements and then list the 32 common strategies found in the literature that were successful.
If each of these elements and sub elements are explored, many covered within The Best of Both Worlds program.
When reading this report, one research project stood out; Evangelou et al (2008) discussed the need for ‘school transition strategies to extend beyond activities designed to support social and emotional adjustment to activities that address the nature of the curriculum and teaching.’ Evalngelou, M., Taggart, B., Sylva, K., Melhuish, E., Sammons, P. and Sira-Blatchord, I. (2008) What makes a Successful Transition from Primary to Secondary School?, Effective Pre-School, Primary and Secondary Education 3-14 Project, Department for Children, Schools and Families http://www.ioe.ac.uk/successful_transition_from_primary_to_secondary_report.pdf. This paper also outlines areas of concern around the performance of students during this time and the dip that can accompany this transition. At the start of Year 7, students are eager and engaged, looking forward to attending secondary school, to this initiation into adolescence, however, as with many things in life, reality sets in and the academic outcomes of many students as well their engagement in education starts to decline.
The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD, 2011), Victoria describes transition as … “a period of change that can be both challenging and exciting, in which children and families adjust to new roles, identities and expectations, new interactions and new relationships.”
International, national and state based research advises primary and secondary schools to work more closely together in order to provide their students the best possible educational outcomes.
The Department of Education, Western Australia goes further to state that
“… as educators we have a professional responsibility to go beyond the rhetoric of K-12 education and for primary and secondary schools to collaborate more closely than ever before to make the transition smooth for students and their families. … While we may have done a good job in the past there is always room to examine how we could take the best of primary and secondary practice to improve the work of all our schools.” (2013)
The focus of The Best of Both Worlds is on supporting students during the transition phase from primary through to secondary school.During this transition phase, the areas of English and literacy are of the utmost importance to student success, as they progress through secondary school and beyond.
The Best of Both Worlds aims to support teachers to work through an Action Research cycle to define a problem, gather information, analyse the information gathered, develop a plan together, implement the joint plan and then evaluating the plan and then repeating and improving the plan.
This program focuses on working with teachers, to support them in a contextually appropriate way. Our aim is to facilitate teachers working in primary and secondary classrooms to share, trial and consolidate effective strategies to support their students’ literacy learning.
The network provides teachers with a range of support, including professional learning sessions, opportunities to visit and observe in network school classrooms and a range of professional resources.
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