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Other transition components

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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. Strong communication between staff at local schools ensures that detailed information about every student is collected, so that the information can be used to comprehensively meet the needs of each student. This interview with deputy principal Mark Whitford, is the second 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.

Collecting information from the schools our students are going to or coming from

A 2010 Ministry research report, Easing the Transition from Primary to Secondary Schooling: Helpful information for schools to consider, recommends that schools ease transitions for students by:

  • Having structured, frequent, and collegial communication between feeder and receiving schools to ensure that students experience continuity in their learning.
  • Setting up systems to ensure that information gathered about learners is relevant, presented in a useful form, and distributed to those who need it.
  • Placing as much importance on Information about learners’ social networks and development as data about their learning and achievement.
  • Using shared information to decide the best placement of students and plan how to cater to individual learning needs (including any special needs).
  • Glen Eden Intermediate School allows new students repeated exposure to their school. How many visits do you offer to your new students? How do you identify and cater for them?
  • What information, aside from the academic, are you collecting about each of the students coming to your school?
  • What do you know about the vision, values, pedagogy and culture of your contributing schools? How could you find out more?

Have you seen?

This section draws together research, digital resources, and examples to support schools as they consider the coherence principle.


Mark Whitford, Associate principal, Glen Eden Intermediate

In the middle of term four, we then invite all our year 6s back that have enrolled at our school, and we have what we call our orientation week, and the students as well as the teachers from the primary schools come to that day.

While the students are off touring the school building relationships with potentially their teachers, we have them in classrooms, we, as in the senior management team, sit down with our year 6 colleagues and discuss each individual year 6 student in detail - looking at their academic requirements, their social requirements, and then also their behavioural requirements. We also discuss class placement, and the type of teacher that may suit that child’s needs, and look at also the grouping of the students from that one particular contributing primary school, whether we need to put students together, or maybe separate some students. So that’s about building relationships with our primary colleagues and making sure we have that positive relationship that we can ask them questions, and they can also give us some really good meaningful information about that transition process.

As part of our orientation process for our new students as well, our special needs co-ordinator works very closely with our primary schools, and our year 6 SENCO colleagues. Often we will have our special needs students - whether they’re behavioural needs or academic needs - they will come in for additional orientation visits and spend some time touring the school one on one with our special needs co-ordinator. And, normally they will meet their classroom teacher before the end of the year, so that they have the holidays to adjust to that and feel comfortable with it, often they may come in two or three times before the end of their year 6 year just to start building that relationship with their teacher - it’s a very important part of it. Coupled with the SENCO, she also touches base with all the RTLB and all the outside agencies where the GSCs are involved, our RTLB service, truancy, all those sorts of agencies that may be working in our school the following year. We make sure we have got really good information and meaningful data from those agencies to make sure that we’re transitioning those students in, as effectively as we possibly can as well.

At the end of term four, we have what we call our parent information evening, which we invite all the parents back from our year 6 students that are enrolled, and we just go into a little bit more detail about what the start of the year is going to look like; what sort of expectation we have of the students; what the first day of the year is going to involve, and we make sure they know they are invited to that first day of the year, that’s a really big part of our welcoming them to our school community. So, again that open evening is around - it’s not around students that evening - it’s around parents, and building the relationships with parents. And there’s a question/answer session at the end, senior management often break the group into three, just so that more parents have an opportunity to ask questions.

The last step of our transition process takes place on the first day of the following year, our parents and students all arrive on the first day of school - it’s only our year 7 students, our year 8s don’t come in on that day - that’s quite a unique thing, we just have our year 7 students. We have a formal Maori welcome - a powhiri- on the first day, where we welcome not only our students but also the parents into our school community and we have our kapa haka group - our year 8 kapa haka students come back and do that formal welcome. Our student leader - our year 8 student leader - speak to the year 7s about what it means to be a GEIS student, and the expectations that they will have placed on them, and also what they need to do to achieve success at our school; and then the year 7 students are off to class. And the great thing about the first day is: it’s just them. So, there’s five hundred year 7s that are all feeling anxious, and nervous, and are going through the same emotions, and there’s no year 8s there, it’s just them. And we have had a lot of feedback from parents and also our year 7 students that they really enjoyed the first day of school because it is just them.

Once the students have started at our school and settled in a little bit - in the first three weeks traditionally- we have parent interviews, where the parents are sent home a profile sheet, where they fill it out on their own child, and it outlines things that they see as strengths, perhaps areas that they would like to see their children work on. They set three goals at home, and then they come into the school for parent interviews and they sit down with the teacher and talk about those things, and the teacher helps clarify what the school can do for the individual child to achieve those goals. The parents also ask questions around structure, and also what is going on in that particular classroom. And that’s really the first step in building that positive relationship between parent and teacher. In terms of transition, some students transition very smoothly and within three or four weeks they have settled in and it’s like they’ve been there for six months. Other students can take longer, and that’s just something that as a school we identify which students need a little bit of extra support and we make sure that if we need to get parents in for another meeting, we do. And also that our special needs co-ordinator touches base with those students that may need some additional support.

In terms of transition at the other end of the school, we also do a very similar transition process for our year 8 students heading off to high school - we have a very positive relationship with our local high schools, and our special needs co-ordinators at those schools. We go through a very similar process in terms of – we give them information we have - we have profile sheets we need to fill out on all those students. And we make sure the information that we give the secondary schools is very very accurate, and that we are setting our year 8s up to succeed when they get to year 9 and year 10. Often our student will go up for pre year visits as well, and some of our special needs children and students that we know are going to be challenged behaviourally perhaps going into a new environment that don’t cope well with change, we will actually send them up for three or four visits to the local high school that they are going to attend, and make sure they have started to build those relationships with the secondary schools so they can succeed.

And just in conclusion, transition for adolescents is incredibly important, and I think as middle school educators we need to make sure that we are giving these students every chance of succeeding and transition has to be a focus at both ends of the spectrum, not just from year 6–7 but also from year 8–9 – particularly year 8-9. It’s so vital, they are going through so many changes both emotionally, physically and socially, all those aspects of their lives are changing and it’s vital that we give them the tools to succeed.

Published on: 29 Oct 2010