OPINION: Making transitions between schools easier for Suffolk pupils
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They say: ‘Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, working together is success’. I’m sure this can be applied to many aspects of life.
In the education world, there are some powerful examples of schools working together and being more successful as a result, but it often takes a funded project or a new initiative to encourage educators to come together.
Schools can be inward-looking and less willing to cooperate with others who they might see as their competitors.
Some want to do it their way, developing their own furrow - there is enough to do, after all. Others don’t have the time or capacity to think beyond their own walls, especially if times are tough, perhaps results are poor and Ofsted is looming.
All of this is completely understandable but it is my belief that there is much more to be gained, and children are more likely to succeed, when we look above the parapet and we collaborate.
One triumph of collaboration being celebrated this week is a ‘Transitions Charter’ - an agreement between schools in the Ipswich and Felixstowe areas, brought together through the Ipswich Opportunity Area initiative, which it is hoped all Suffolk schools will now sign up to.
Transition between settings, whether you’re four years old and starting ‘big school’, or 11 years old and moving from primary to secondary, can be hard.
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It can take time to settle in and get to know people and during that time progress in learning is inhibited, often dipping back. It is vital that the adults in your life are supporting the transition by talking to each other and passing on information that they know about you so that new, supportive relationships are built as quickly as possible.
In reception classes children often arrive from numerous pre-schools, nurseries, homes or child-minders, all with their own ways of doing things.
In one high school classroom children may have gathered from primary schools over a wide area. The information that is transferred with each child can vary tremendously.
In Year 6 classrooms during June and July children often spend a day in their new secondary school.
With different high schools offering different days, sometimes spread across a number of weeks, children can end up missing important events such as school plays and sports days which is frustrating for them as well as their teachers who are trying to deliver coherent learning experiences. None of this helps the young people and often creates extra work for the staff involved.
Last year, school leaders from the Ipswich and Felixstowe areas took the initiative and piloted a single transition window for year 6 to year 7 transition - the last Wednesday and Thursday of June.
This provided consistency and certainty, reduced lost-learning time and was welcomed by the schools that took part. At the time, Allan Cadzow, Corporate Director of Children and Young People in Suffolk County Council wrote to all school leaders across the county encouraging them to adopt the same dates.
The group also piloted the use of a single ‘common transfer document’ of information about each child that would be passed on to their new schools. It was an overwhelming success.
Communication was improved, receiving schools knew what to expect and ultimately year 7 pupils and families were better supported. A similar result is also predicted for transition between early years settings and primary schools.
Again, arising from an Ipswich Opportunity Area initiative, the Strong School Start Network, this will be trialled this year and hopefully adopted permanently across Ipswich and then potentially wider afield.
Although the Ipswich Opportunity Area is coming to an end this summer, it has created a group of outward-facing school leaders who are determined to keep the collaboration going.
The hope is that, in time, all schools in Suffolk will see the benefits of working together collaboratively around transition and that another legacy of the Ipswich Opportunity Area will have been of benefit across the county.
- Clare Flintoff is the CEO of ASSET Education, which runs a number of primary schools across Suffolk.