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Transitions: Students at the centre

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Staff at the Mt Roskill campus create positive transitions between schools by placing students at the centre of the transition process. 

"In and around placement we find that it is really important, going back to that idea of relationships, that we really know who the students are as a person so we spend a lot of time going around our contributing schools ... and sitting and talking with the teachers and finding out about the students as a person."

Kristen Walsham, principal of Mt Roskill Intermediate School

Promoting professional conversations

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

Learning pathways

The New Zealand Curriculum states that (p 41):

“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 ways that staff at the Mt Roskill campus brings this statement to life.
  • What changes can you make at your school to help students experience positive transitions between schools with a greater sense of continuity and direction?

Students at the centre

Kristen Walsham, principal of Mt Roskill Intermediate, talks about the importance of knowing who her students are and building on their strengths and interests.

  • How are the interests, strengths, identities, and aspirations of your students recognised, celebrated, and shared at your school?
  • What information about your transitioning students do you share with their future schools?
  • Do you reveal the person behind the data?

Tools for self review

Easing the transition from primary to secondary schooling: Helpful information for schools to consider
This report produced by the Ministry of Education provides research-informed ideas and suggestions for schools and teachers in their work with transitioning students.


Figure one from the report lists important factors for a smooth transition to secondary school. Primary schools can use the descriptors on this diagram to review how well they are preparing their year 8 students as they approach the move to secondary school.

PDF icon. Figure 1 (PDF, 689 KB)

Figure two from the report lists important factors in helping year 9 students settle well at secondary school. Secondary schools can use this diagram to consider the experiences of their year 9 students on entry and identify ways to provide a more positive transition.

PDF icon. Figure 2 (PDF, 865 KB)


So a really key part of our work is transition. That’s probably our biggest goal, is how we transition our kids. So we look at... we’ve got sort of different ways we think about transition – one is physical. So, do our kids know where the school is? How to get around? Who the people are they need to know about? So the physical transition we plan for, but we really feel emotional transition is so key for our kids – so having important relationships with people they are going to see at the next school, and making sure that we make those kids feel safe. So that’s particularly around our priority learners that they feel emotionally safe.

Then we really believe that learning transition is key. So we know where we collect the data [from]. We know where they've come from. We’ve done work on consistency of assessments, so we know our assessments are valid. We’ve done things like set our sliders on asTTle so we have consistency. We don’t reassess kids unless we need to because we trust our previous school’s data, and we place them carefully, and we get on and start teaching them because we know where they’ve come from. That transition is really important to us, but also we've done a lot of work around consistency of teaching and learning.

I guess one of the key aspects for us in terms of transition is the idea that relationships are at the heart of what we do. This year, what we've done for the first time is we’ve had the little five-year-olds at the primary school come across and work with our kapa haka. They’ve all planted a little seedling. So they've measured their seedling, measured their own height, and it is our job at the intermediate to care for those little seedlings. When they are in year six, those same students will plant their little seedling – so we in the meantime... it's our job to care for them. So that’s symbolic really of what we see is at the heart of what we’re doing – that transition isn't just a sharing of information that happens just at the end of year six, but it’s a process of developing relationships so that when the students come, they feel safe, they feel like they belong, part of them is already here, and that process continues through intermediate and on to their time at the grammar school.

It was easy moving from Mt Roskill Intermediate to Mount Roskill Grammar because we had performances. I also got to meet some people from grammar school that would later become my friends when I came here. They helped me throughout my years so far.

I would also be a bit more confident because we would be performing for Matariki and the whānau hui and the Māori graduations, so we got to see a lot of the grammar school students.

In and around placement, we find that it’s really important (going back to that idea of relationships) that we really know who the students are as a person. So we spend a lot of time going around our contributing schools, not just with our Roskill Primary, but our other schools as well, we apply this too. So we’re sitting and talking with the teachers, finding out about the students as a person so that we can place them the best that they can possibly be placed. So again, that relationship is important. Identifying children who are are going to need to be monitored and mentored, that need to be placed with support in and around them. Students that need to be extended; students that need to be challenged with their thinking. So having all of that information and seeing them as a person beyond just the data and the statistics of where they are at in terms of their reading level, their writing level, their maths level. All of those things that add to them being a person. A beautiful example of that would be in music. So we had a group of students we knew were particular musicians coming in that could walk the line in terms of other aspects of their learning and behaviour. So it was going to be really important to engage them in school, and so knowing where they were gifted in music we took that and actually set up a music group to hook them in really early on to school. When that group of students were ready to move through into the grammar school that same information was passed on to the grammar school, and they actually set up a year 9 band/music group to hook those students into, so that all the work that they had been doing wasn’t lost. Engaging them in school meant that their learning increased. Of course, as we know, engaged, happy children learn the most. So it’s about thinking about them as a person, engaging those ones who could be at risk.

Published on: 04 Jun 2014