An Approach to Transition

“Transitional periods in the lives of children and young people are times of threat but also of opportunity for change. If children possess adequate coping skills, are in environments that protect against excessive demands, but also have opportunities to learn and adapt through being exposed to reasonable levels of risk, then a successful transition is likely. If neither coping skills, nor an environment that is likely to promote them, are present then periods of transition may become points in the child or adolescent life span where serious developmental damage may occur.” (Newman and Blackburn, 2002)

It is essential that schools take the importance of transitions seriously. Every school must have procedures in place that make transitions as seamless as possible in the interest and safety of the pupils involved. At Clifton Hall, it is markedly evident that steps above and beyond required measures have been taken to ensure transitions are handled with careful consideration.

Clifton Hall merged with St. Serf’s Secondary School in 2008 and now both Primary and Secondary Schools reside in one building. When the merge commenced the staff immediately put ‘A Curriculum for Excellence’ management structure in place.

Whilst most schools in Scotland are currently implementing changes and preparing the Curriculum structure, Clifton Hall is already well adjusted to the Curriculum for Excellence structure. Four members of the Clifton Hall School are directly involved in the area of transition: Head of Early Years, Mrs Judy Aitchison; Director of Studies, Kathy Whittley; Guidance Head, Jill Drummond and Curriculum for Excellence Co-ordinator, Martin Franssen.

Scottish Government regulations state that, “transition planning should begin at least 12 months before the change takes place (or at least 6 months in the case of pre-school children). By this stage advice and information should have been sought from relevant people and agencies.”

However at Clifton Hall, Transition is an ongoing process that is considered from the moment students enter the Nursery right through to finishing Secondary School. The Early Years Coordinator, Director of Studies, Guidance Head and cfE Coordinator therefore are responsible for transitions in both the Primary and Secondary School. This allows them to scaffold the children during and beyond transition. The Director of Studies also receives a PPR for every potential incoming student. The Guidance Head uses the PPR to ascertain any potential behavioural issues.

At present there is a capacity for 24 pupils in J7 and 48 pupils in S1. There is no Entrance Exam and the J7s and incoming pupils instead have induction days that focus on team building exercises through participation in drama, music and sports’ activities. These days allow the pupils to meet their peers and potential teachers. In June, a move up day is held throughout the entire school, presenting the pupils with the opportunity for an insight into their new surroundings and teachers.

There are several other procedures in place to ease the process of Transitions for students. The PE, Drama, Art, Music, Modern Languages, Science and IT Junior Specialist Teachers are Senior School Teachers. This creates a sense of familiarity between the staff and the students and an insight into what they can expect from these subjects and Teachers in the Secondary Sector of the school. The S5 and S6 House Captains and Prefects act as Teaching Support in the Junior classes. Again this promotes familiarity and a sense of security to the Junior students. Clifton Hall prides itself on positive relationships between staff and students. This is nourished by the familiarity that children have with their Teachers when transitioning from Junior to Secondary School.

Clifton Hall recognises the importance of focusing on transition not only within the classroom but also in social situations out with the classroom.  Every break time two S1 students go to the Junior playground. This operates on a rotational basis. It enables the J7s to get to know their peers in a relaxed atmosphere and to communicate questions or concerns that they may have to a peer.

“Peer education is an approach which empowers young people to work with other young people, and which draws on the positive strength of the peer group. By means of appropriate training and support, the young people become active players in the educational process rather than passive recipients of a set message,” (Fast Forward, 2004).

In addition to this, the Junior school support the Senior School in sporting events and all classes from J1 to S6 take part in school events such as the school show, sports day, Christmas concert and Charity events. This promotes partnership between the Junior and Senior School.

“Transitions need to be planned, progressive and holistic…’ (Aberdeen Cyrenians)

“It is apparent that Clifton Hall has a unique, positive and effective approach to transition. All policies in place encourage successful transitions for the pupils, both socially and academically. The School’s approach to Transition encapsulates the four capacities of the Curriculum for Excellence resulting in confident students who are fully prepared for challenges that lie ahead,” (Kennedy, A., 2010).