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As 2014 draws to a close, students across the country are bidding farewell to their classmates, teachers, and in some cases, their schools. End of year trips, fiafia days, leavers’ dinners, final assemblies, and award ceremonies feature on many school calendars this month as schools celebrate students’ journeys through education.

This blog focuses on transitions, an important component of the coherence principle. It provides questions, resources, tools, practical advice, and stories to help you ensure positive transitions for your students and their families.

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.

The New Zealand Curriculum, pg 43

Some things you should know about transitions

  • Transitions cover a range of journeys that students make in education – beginning school, moving through classes, moving through syndicates, moving to a different school, graduating to intermediate and secondary schools, moving between subject areas in the secondary setting, and leaving school.
  • Transitions are more than end-of-year and beginning-of-year events. They are a process whereby students make gradual adjustments to their teachers, peers, and to the programme.
  • Students transition in different ways and some students will need different approaches and specific, evidence-informed initiatives or actions.
  • Managing transitions is not the responsibility of just one or two teachers. It requires a school-wide culture of pastoral and learning care for students.
  • Successful transitions involve acknowledging and responding to the cultural identities of all students.

Adapted from the summary report for Evaluation at a Glance: Transitions from Primary to Secondary School (December 2012).

Positive and coherent transitions at your school

This blog suggests two ways that you can provide smoother transitions for your students and offers information, questions, resources, and stories to help you examine these ideas in greater depth.

1. Make connections to students’ prior experiences and culture

The New Zealand Curriculum (p 36) states that students learn best when:

  • they are able to integrate new learning with what they already understand
  • they feel accepted
  • teachers deliberately build on what their students know and have experienced
  • teachers attend to the cultural and linguistic diversity of all their students.

2012 ERO report found that when a transition from primary school to secondary school is successful, students feel that:

  • their teachers understand the importance of their language, culture and identity
  • their current learning follows on from their previous learning (the curriculum is connected and continuous) and is appropriately challenging
  • their teachers know them, including their strengths, interests, and learning needs, and show they are interested in them.

Some practical ideas
The following list offers some practical ideas to help you make stronger connections to students’ prior experiences and culture at your school:

  • Take time to get to know your students and their families on a personal level by hosting a social gathering, or a school or class hui.
  • Include a space in your planning templates to record ways that you can draw on students’ prior experiences, previous learning, and their culture across different learning contexts.
  • Meet with teachers at your feeder and receiving schools to share information about programmes and students’ interests, talents, and achievements.  
  • Have staff meet with local whānau and iwi at a local marae or hall in order to try and further understand the tikanga of your local area.
  • Ensure that listening to student voice is deliberately planned for in your school. What can students tell you about themselves?

Critical elements for raising Māori achievement
In this EDtalk, Phoebe Davis, Māori Medium Facilitator for CORE Education, offers some practical ideas to help you form stronger relationships with students and whānau, and become more culturally responsive in your practice.

Find out how other schools are connecting with students to acknowledge and embrace their prior experiences and culture:

Transitions: Students at the centre
Staff at the Mt Roskill campus create positive transitions between schools by getting to know their incoming students and building on their prior learning, their strengths, and interests.

Know your students
Jim Halafihi, ICT teacher Papatoetoe High School, explains how establishing a positive rapport with your Pasifika students can provide a good starting point to knowing your students. When a teacher knows their students they are in a better position to respond more appropriately to their needs.

Engaging Pasifika families - Owairaka School builds a fale
The staff at Owairaka School explored ways to build deep connections and partnerships with the cultural groups and families at their school. Principal Diana Tregoweth and her staff went to Samoa to help them to understand the culture of their Samoan students. This story tells how the community subsequently worked together in the construction of a traditional fale.

Guiding questions He patai

  • In what ways does your school already make connections to students’ prior experiences and culture?
  • What steps can you take in 2015 and beyond to bring this statement to life further? Set yourself a challenge to build stronger connections with your students and whānau.

2. Have conversations with the schools that your 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 have structured, frequent, and collegial communication between feeder and receiving schools to ensure that students experience continuity in their learning. The report also suggests that schools place as much importance on information about learners’ social networks and development as data about their learning and achievement, and use this shared information to decide the best placement of students and inform planning.Stories


Find out how other schools are working together to ensure smoother transitions for students:

Invercargill schools collaborate
A single transition form for the whole of Invercargill has replaced the individual forms that each secondary school used to collect information from contributing primary schools. Learn how the quality of transitions for staff, students, and the wider community has improved.

Leading cross school professional learning
Staff across the Mt Roskill campus are working together to provide coherent pathways for their students through the various schools. Learn how they joined forces to ensure smooth transitions and support greater student achievement.

Smooth transitions for students with special education needs
Students with special education needs experience positive transitions at the Mt Roskill campus thanks to the collaboration and close relationships between teachers, support staff, therapists, and parents.

Guiding questions He patai

  • How much do you really know about the teaching and learning, and school culture of the schools your students are transitioning from or to?
  • In what ways could you develop closer bonds and improve your sharing of information?
  • What systems need to be put in place at your school to ensure you have enough information about all of your students?
  • When you receive data from a contributing school, how effectively is it used, and what is it used for?
  • What information could you be gathering beyond the academic that could give you a fuller picture of student needs?

Have you seen?

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

learning pathways