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PRIMARY TO SECONDARY TRANSFER STILL A PROBLEM, SAYS OFSTED

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Most schools recognise the need to improve continuity and progression for pupils transferring from primary to secon...
Most schools recognise the need to improve continuity and progression for pupils transferring from primary to secondary school but are rarely giving enough priority to the difficult and time-consuming task, the Office for Standards in Education warned today.

In a report, Changing Schools, published today, OFSTED says that continuing weaknesses in the arrangements for the watershed between Key Stage 2 (KS2) and Key Stage 3 (KS3) are a threat to the achievement of the government's performance targets for 14-year-olds at Key Stage 3.

Improving progression between primary and secondary education is a key objective of the government's Key Stage 3 Strategy, which the schools were just beginning to implement at the time of the inspection visits. This report provides a baseline against which to judge the impact of the strategy on transition.

The KS3 Strategy was already prompting better liaison between primary and secondary schools in the pilot areas then involved, but inspectors found partner primary and secondary schools knew little of their respective practices in assessing and recording pupils' progress and in setting targets. There was not enough discussion between teachers in KS2 and KS3 about the standards of work expected of pupils and about approaches to teaching.

Primary schools had improved their monitoring of pupils' progress towards KS2 targets as a result of the National Literacy and Numeracy Strategies, but little detailed information was reaching secondary school English and mathematics departments. As a result, time was wasted at the beginning of Year 7 (first year secondary) with further testing of pupils to fill in the gaps. Few secondary schools were setting targets for improving attainment, building on prior achievements in primary school.

But inspectors found some signs of hope for this longstanding weakness in the education system:

- greater efforts by partner schools were improving liaison over practical and pastoral aspects of transfer, with many effective induction programmes helping to make the move to secondary school less intimidating for pupils;

- use of the new national common transfer form for KS2 was making the communication of basic assessment data more consistent;

- under the Key Stage 3 Strategy, national funding is available for the first time to support transfer, with up to£10,500 available to every secondary school in the current year (2001/2).

- the frameworks for common lesson structures for the teaching of English and maths in Years 6 and 7 were helping to promote continuity;

- some LEAs were providing support for transfer arrangements, although they were doing little to evaluate its effectiveness.

The Key Stage 3 Strategy is aimed at helping schools achieve the ambitious targets set by the government for KS3 in 2004 in English, mathematics and science. The OFSTED report, however, warns: 'The progress of schools towards these demanding targets is likely to be restricted while the weaknesses in continuityand progression between KS2 and KS3 remain.'

Chief inspector David Bell said today: 'It is absolutely essential that schools tackle this longstanding area of weakness. For too long OFSTED inspections have identified a stagnation in pupils' progress in Years 7 and 8 and, more recently, have recorded a decline in teaching standards between Year 6 and Year 8.

'It is vital that secondary schools fully recognise the recent huge improvements in attainment at Key Stage 2 and help their Year 7 and Year 8 pupils to build on them instead of marking time, as too many of them do at present. These early years in the secondary school can shape young people's subsequent academic and career achievements.'

NOTES

1. OFSTED is a non-ministerial government department established under the Education (Schools) Act 1992 to take responsibility for the inspection of all schools in England. Its role also includes the inspection of local education authorities, teacher training institutions, youth work and all 16-19 education. Since September 2001 OFSTED has had responsibility for the regulation of early years childcare, including childminders.

2. The report Changing Schools: the effectiveness of transfer arrangements at age 11, reference HMI 550, is available on the OFSTED website. A copy of a summary leaflet, ref HMI 507, is being sent to each maintained school and LEA in England, and it will also be available free of charge from the OFSTED publications centre, telephone 07002 637833 or email freepublications@ofsted.gov.uk

During the summer term 2001, Her Majesty's Inspectors (HMI) visited 32 primary schools, two for each of 16 partner secondary schools, in eight local education authorities (LEAs). They visited the 16 secondary schools in the autumn term 2001. The small sample, broadly representative of schools nationally, included schools of varying size, with a full range of attainment profiles and in different local circumstances. Some of the secondary schools had as many as 40 partner primary schools; others were linked to no more than 10. Four of the LEAs were involved in the pilot of the Key Stage 3 Strategy. Secondary schools in the other LEAs visited were just beginning to work on the strategy as it was extended nationally. In view of the timing of the inspection, the findings of this report offer a baseline against which to judge the impact of the strategy on progression from primary to secondary schools in the future.

The inspection focused on:

- the management of the transfer programme and pupils' induction into Year 7

- the transfer of assessment data

- the effectiveness of projects to promote curriculum continuity

- the quality of teaching in Year 6 and Year 7

- the support provided to pupils for their learning in Year 7.

In the course of the visits, HMI:

- conducted interviews with senior staff who manage transfer

- discussed transfer with Year 6 primary school teachers and heads of English and mathematics departments in secondary schools

- held meetings with special educational needs (SEN) co-ordinators in secondary schools

- observed teaching in Years 6 and 7 in either mathematics or English

- talked to small groups of pupils in Year 6 and again when they had moved to Year 7.

3. OFSTED is a non-ministerial government department established under the Education (Schools) Act 1992 to take responsibility for the inspection of all schools in England. Its role also includes the inspection of local education authorities, teacher training institutions, youth work and all 16-19 education. Since September 2001 OFSTED has had responsibility for the regulation of early years childcare, including childminders.

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