One of the most important aspects of student life is transition. Whether this be the move between years (vitally important in KS1 and KS2), or the move between Key Stages, this is a vital area of the student experience and it is vitally important that educators get it right and continue to learn from past mistakes.
Though the move between KS1 and KS2 is an extremely smooth one (as it usually takes place within the same setting with practitioners who work very closely together – similarly with KS3 to KS4), and the move between KS2 and KS3 has improved immeasurably over the last few years with changes to KS2 SATs tests and the removal of statuary guidance for KS3 assessment (from optional Y9 SATs, to Assessing Pupil Progress grids and assessment), KS4 to KS5/Post-16 is often overlooked. Below are just some of the areas which need further attention to ensure a smooth transition:
A challenging aspect of enrolment and induction is assessing skills in English and maths. Done through initial assessments, this can often take 1 – 3 hours with apathetic students often aiming simply to get through the assessments as quickly as possible (giving inaccurate results). As a result, students are placed at incorrect levels before even beginning courses. To remedy this, schools must work closer with colleges to share information on academic ability/achievement whilst all exam boards should develop their systems to allow colleges to see exact results (raw marks, question level analysis) and not just grades.
Another aspect of transition which is often overlooked, is the lack of focus on Special Educational Needs and Disabilities. A vital area, and one which time and time again does not get the funding or support it needs. Students often lose months of their Post-16 experience without the necessary support or guidance they need because information is not passed efficiently enough between educational settings. Again, a starting point is a closer relationship between settings and better communication, but there should also be further funding to specifically target and support students with SEND and create earlier interventions to ensure these students make progress at the same rate as their peers.
A major issue for some, the ‘sink or swim’ environment which exists when first in Post-16 education. Those who have missed mainstream education (whether through exclusion or having spent time in Pupil Referral Units) often miss the routine of Secondary, and struggle with the freedoms Further Education brings (flexible timetables, gaps between lessons, the independence required to complete assignments). An answer could be a staggered transition (beginning in Secondary) leading to partial timetables and ending in full timetables as the year progresses. Costly, but these students are often the most disadvantaged and at risk of unemployment, addiction and crime: the earlier we can support, the better.
An obvious aspect of transition is that not enough information regarding vulnerable students is communicated. With the influx of students, often in the thousands of students at larger colleges, it can be difficult to track, collate and disseminate information on all students (with such a wide context of learners entering college at this time). Though safeguarding is obviously always a priority, with the government PREVENT initiative the highest profile in recent years, it is not always as effective as it could be. To develop this further, colleges need funds and practitioners to regularly visit and collaborate with local secondary schools and partners to help build up a working knowledge of those students who need the most support. As above, this is costly and time consuming, but absolutely necessary to make sure that every student is able to achieve.
Most colleges have a range of sports teams and offer trips which benefit vocational learning. The government has also mandated that British Values are taught across the spectrum of Key Stages, but what else is done to develop a lifelong love or learning in students and help them experience things they may never come across independently? Again, this would require extra funding and practitioner support, but trips to events of cultural significance (theatre, opera, museums, areas of local interest) should be mandatory across the curriculum and not just to support vocational topics or ramp up guided learning hours. It is vital students are made aware of events and culture outside of their own lives and more should be done to encourage this.
It is clear from the above that the main priority is support and funding for practitioners to be able to deliver a smooth transition. With announcements made recently that funding for the sector will increase, hopefully transition can start sooner for Further Education to support students to reach and surpass their potential.
About the author
Jonny Kay is Head of English and maths at Tyne Coast College. He has previously worked as an English teacher and Head of Department in KS3/4 and tweets @jonnykayteacher. He also regularly blogs at www.thereflectiveteacher.co.uk.