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Saturday Thunks

Powerful Transitions #SaturdayThunk

The fiddle and faff curriculum that plagues some schools in the early years of Key Stage 2 or Key Stage 3 can start with poor transition processes from the previous key stage or phase.  Over the past few weeks hundreds of thousands of students have moved across a transition point, Ofsted raised concerns about “the wasted years” and St. Mary’s new Year 7s have enjoyed their “Friendship” Dynamic Day.

Photo Credit: Gian Luigi Perrella via Flickr cc

Photo Credit: Gian Luigi Perrella via Flickr cc


The combination of non-specialist or less expert teachers in Key Stage 3, lack of working with primary schools and low challenge leading to poor achievement were Ofsted’s main concerns.  A lot of this may simply be poor planning for progression based on a simple ignorance on what has been taught before and a failure to accurately assess children’s starting points.  The children actually know and can do more than we think.

I always loved the Tom Sherrington (@Headguruteacher) provocation about throwing away your Year 7 curriculum and start the new students with the Year 8 one – problematic or an improvement?  Key to us increasing the challenge across the Trust’s academies has been accepting there is an improvement needed then putting in place the people and processes to make the necessary changes.

  1. If you are teaching students in Years 7-9 have you ever been given the opportunity to watch the teaching of Mathematics or English in Key Stage 2?  You might be surprised at the level of demand, the quality of work the strategy the teacher employs.
  2. When you are writing a Key Stage 3 scheme of learning do you invite a primary teacher, literacy or numeracy co-ordinator for example, to assist you.  It is one of those Eureka moments when the co-ordinator says, “Oh, they do that in Year 5 or Year 6.”  This is more powerful if some of the secondary teachers can confirm it through their own observations in primary schools.  Getting the level of challenge right is critical.
  3. Just because a child has covered it doesn’t mean they have learnt it.  Assessment of prior learning is a relative weakness in many schools.  Maths teachers often give new Year 7 their SAT paper in the September as the marking identifies gaps that need plugging before moving on.  This is more powerful than sending up masses of data that is never used.  Children at 4b, or whatever, know and can do different things, addressing the gaps is vital to future success.  This year we have asked for a child’s best piece of writing from their primary school to act as a baseline for their new English teacher.  Note to self – remember to stress the importance of the child’s name being on the page.  We also need to think about asking for a piece that has not been supported or scaffolded.

Final thought, if a child finds a good friend in the first few weeks they’ll do better at school.  A sense of belonging matters to young and old alike.  Isolation is a killer in terms of children’s achievement and quite literally for the elderly.

#SaturdayThunk is based on something I’ve been thinking about, discussing, working on or has been topical that week.  The thunk is designed to be bite sized and will deliberately be kept short.  It will take one small issue or an aspect of something much bigger.  The intention is for it to be read in two minutes as you’re relaxing or busy running around on you day off.




  1. Pingback: Getting transition right..it's a risk-point for vulnerable learners - Challenging Education - December 31, 2019

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