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First steps in transition programme

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Based on local and international research, Glen Eden Intermediate’s transition programme focuses on building positive relationships with contributing schools, families, and the wider community. Transitioning students visit the school frequently, meet their teachers and participate in classes.  Parents and whānau also have the opportunity to be involved in the transition of their children. This interview with deputy principal Mark Whitford is the first in a two part series, and describes a process that other schools could follow.

Professional learning conversations

These questions and suggested actions encourage you to reflect on your own school context.

The NZC states (p 43):

"As students journey from early childhood through secondary school and, in many cases, on to tertiary training or tertiary education in one of its various forms, they should find that each stage of the journey prepares them for and connects well with the next. Schools can design their curriculum so that students find the transitions positive and have a clear sense of continuity and direction."

  • Discuss the systems that staff at Glen Eden Intermediate School have in place to help them build relationships with their incoming Year 6 students and families. 
  • What steps do you take to get to know the students who are arriving into your school before they arrive? As they arrive? After they have arrived?
  • How can you build stronger relationships with these transitioning students and their families?

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Patricia Conrad – Sabbatical Report 2010: What makes for successful transition
Patricia Conrad, Mansell Senior School, investigates transition programmes across Auckland for year 6 students moving to intermediate school and for year 8 students moving to secondary school.


My name is Mark Whitford, I’m the associate principal at Glen Eden Intermediate in Waitakare City, West Auckland.

We’ve got a thousand students at our school, we are a decile eight.

I’ve been teaching adolescent children in middle schools for fifteen years, and it is a passion of mine - I’ve got one of them at home myself; he’s an angel. And I think the most important thing to remember about middle school years is that they’re a unique bunch - adolescents are definitely a unique bunch of students, and we need to think differently when we’re teaching these students.

So, I’m going to talk about transition today from, basically from the primary school to the intermediate sector. And to quote James Bean, it’s a lot about forging relationships - students and adolescents in particular need to have positive relationships. And at GEIS… (I’ll use GEIS; it’s easier than Glen Eden Intermediate School) we use a lot of relationship building as our focus for transitioning students from primary to intermediate and then also, from intermediate to secondary as well, we have really good strong relationships with our contributing primary schools, and then also where we feed to in the secondary school as well.

The relationships that I’m going to refer to are, the relationships that we build with our year 6 students, also their parents, our year 6 colleagues, and then lastly, the outside agencies that we work with in school. So, I just want to share a little bit about the process that we go through at Glen Eden Intermediate.

Before I do that, I just want to explain why we go through this process, and we’ve used three bits of research to inform our practice and make sure that it’s clear and as efficient as possible in terms of transition. So, we survey our year 7 students every year, one of our teachers does that, and collects information about how they felt when they started the school, what they would have liked to have known, all those sorts of things. So, we do student surveys.

The second thing is, the Ministry of Education website on Educational Leadership - several principals recently have been on sabbatical and done some work around transitions, so we’ve looked at that research.

And then lastly, the National College of School leaders in Nottingham in the UK. There’s some fantastic research on there about transition that we’ve read as a senior management team and looked at and used those three bits of research to inform our practice.

So, I’ll just talk about the process that we go through at Glen Eden Intermediate, and it’s important to remember that focus on all the things we do is all about relationship building. So, the first thing we do in term two, sort of the middle to the end of term two, is we invite all our contributing primary schools to come for a visit for a whole day; and we get all our year six’s, this is all over a week at different times of the week, they come and experience specialist classes at school - so that’s the hard materials, the electronics, the video production, dramatic arts, music, all those types of things, as well as sport and ICT. And the students spend the whole day with us, and we do that for a number of reasons. One, it starts to build that relationship with the students, they get to meet some of our staff, it also gives them an experience of working with different teachers, they’ll actually go to two different teachers during the day and that’s all part of the transition and working with different people, and they actually get to take something tangible home with them that - which is important as well that they feel like they achieved something in that day. So, that’s our first step in building the relationships with those new students. Now, not all of those students come to our school in the end, but we provide that opportunity for all of those students, whether they come or not.

The second step is at the beginning of term three we have an opening evening, and this primarily involves students from our school - current year 7 and 8 students - promoting our school and talking about our school and a variety of different things: curriculum, sport programme, our spec programme, the variety of opportunities that we have, different cultural groups, the music groups, school productions, all those sorts of opportunities that we provide, the students present those. And then the parents and the students - the year 6 students and parents, sorry- go for a big tour around the school, and we have a group of our year 7 and 8 students that are working in classrooms taking numeracy, and maths lessons, literacy lessons as well as our spec classes are open. We have a group in the gym doing sports activities and what are traditional, a normal classroom programme might look like in the gym, in terms of P.E. We also do a presentation in our auditorium around curriculum and what the structure of the school is and what students experience while they are at GEIS. Our school counsellors run that programme, the teachers, or the senior management don’t per say stand up and talk a heck of a lot, it’s primarily based around the students - presenting what they believe is good about GEIS, and what they value about our school, and they write the speeches, which is a fantastic leadership opportunity for those students, they love that, the year 7 and 8 students. And there is a big tour, so the parents roam around the school seeing the school in action basically, and then at the end of the evening, senior management is available to answer any questions. So, referring back to the whole concept of relationships, that’s relationship building with the students, and also their parents, that’s our first opportunity to build those relationships with parents. And there’s often a lot of questions around enrolment process, and gifted and talented students and things like that, so it’s a great opportunity for us to start building those relationships with parents.

About a month after the open evenings, I take our school counsellors out to each of our contributing primary schools - we’ve got 10 main ones - and I take students that are currently enrolled at Glen Eden, year 7 or 8 students, usually year 7 students, because they have that relationship with the year 6 students at the primary schools; and we go along again to just answer any questions they may have. Again that is just about building the relationships with their peers for the following year, because those year 7 students for this year will be their year 8 peers the following year, so that’s almost a support network for those year 6s coming in - so that’s a big focus as well.

Early in term four, at the next part of the process, is we have a meeting at our school where we invite all the principals and senior management team of our contributing primary schools, as well as all the year 6 teachers along for an afternoon tea, and we share our process of what we are going to do during term four to transition their enrolled students into our school. We give out a profile form, that we ask our primary colleagues to fill in, which gives us really meaningful data about each individual student, and we share the actual steps that we are going to go through term four to transition those year 6 students into our school for the following year.

Published on: 29 Oct 2010