Transition is a testing time anyway, especially as it involves moving schools, for many, at year 2 and 6. Transition within a school can be testing, as children and teachers build an attachment for each other. By the end of any year, good teachers will have extended their children in all areas, to a point where they are unrecognisable from the children who entered the class only ten months earlier. They mature, physically and mentally, achieving at levels higher than the previous year. They, their parents and the teacher are proud of their joint achievements.
Ok, I can dream that it is like that for every child in every class, but, realistically, it isn’t perfect.
However, there are some aspects of transition that can cause stresses for receiving teachers, and have done probably always. The receiving teacher has to “get to know the children”. This can take a couple of weeks or so in a primary classroom, where a teacher will have worked with the children for 25 hours a week, across a range of subjects. Even at three contact hours a week, a Secondary teacher will take 7-8 weeks to have that much contact. That’s not changeable, although I have visited a few Secondary schools that have actively pursued more of a Primary approach, with one significant teacher for much of year 7.
Before levels, transition discussions were largely centred around behaviours and friendships, who was good at different subjects and who needed some help, reading levels, and their most recent maths, English and topic books. For Secondary transfer it was the behaviour and friendship issue that dominated, as they tested after entry.
Levels gave a common language for transition, with specific numbers attached to specific children. Understanding that all “3b” children were not identical was an essential element of transition, in order to ensure that “best fit” didn’t mean missing bits as the new teacher sought to move on from “3b”. This was a main driver in developing the “Two page approach to writing”, with associated individualised targets, to remind the teacher and the child about their next steps.
The “missing bits” in “best fit” that were seen as one reason for getting rid of levels, to me, are still embedded in the system. Children will transition from one year to the next with some having achieved within the year and others not having done so. If a child achieves at 60, 70 or 80% of the year programme, there will be “gaps” in their understanding, which, if not identified and addressed, will remain as unfilled. “Bridging gaps” only succeeds if the gaps are kept in front of teachers and children as things to work on. Tracking the gaps is a necessary part of teacher activity.
The SATs results will show those working at certain expected standards. Those who don’t reach that expected standard apparently will have to retake the year 6 test at the end of year 7. That suggests that either year 7 will become a reprise of year 6, especially in maths and English or that some will be separated from their peers (streamed) to be coached separately, identifiable as the “slow learner” group. Each will have specific areas of need; some will be minor, having missed “achieving” by a mark or three, while others may have significant areas of need and may still have after the end of year 7.
The year 7 resits will distort transfer and add stress to many vulnerable learners at a time when they will already have concerns. Their attachment and security needs will be many. If a school tests children on another scale on entry for their own data purposes, they might be able to argue not to undertake the year 7 SATs, but that will be a brave head.
Rather than the money for year 6 and 7 SATs, why not move the funding to year 4, allowing two years of the remaining time in Primary for issues to be addressed?
If teacher assessment within year 6 was moderated, with Secondary colleagues present, it would become part of year 6 and 7 CPD; agreeing standards.
If book use between year 6 and 7 could be locally agreed, they could transfer with the child, to be used on entry, maintaining earlier quality, as previous benchmarks would be evident.
If personal targets were all on fold out sheets, the receiving teacher would have immediate access to that information.
Secondaries have never really accepted Primary data anyway, preferring to retest, so that is likely to continue.
Just to send children to Secondary school “below expectation”, will do nothing for the child’s future learning, their parents’ understanding or the receiving teachers’ organisation. That’s one reason why the new system will not work any better than the last.
Why do we keep deceiving ourselves that these tests give a more useful judgement than teacher expertise? Whatever the score, knowing the detail of how to get “better” is the core of progress.
The words are mightier than the numbers…