Ready for year 7? A range of transition activities for secondary schools

Written by: Jason Wing | Published:
Stock image: MA Education

It is really worth the effort to get your primary to secondary school transition support processes right. Jason Wing takes us through the raft of activities that help to ensure year 7 pupils hit the ground running when they join his schools

I am sure that every secondary school headteacher and principal recognises the importance of ensuring that all pupils have a smooth and stress-free transition into secondary education.

Within the current educational climate it is vitally important not to solely focus on your own school but to be outward-looking and collaborative. Neale-Wade Academy is a large Active Learning Trust-sponsored secondary school that has six main feeder primary schools in a market town in The Fens in Cambridgeshire, but we also draw pupils from up to 16 schools within a 10-mile radius of the town.

Fenland and East Cambridgeshire has been designated as an Opportunity Area and as a member of the steering group it is clearly apparent that in order to improve and maximise outcomes for children within this geographical region schools must work more collaboratively than before.

Transition work with primary schools immediately lends itself to this collaboration and is an area at Neale-Wade that we have worked hard to perfect over the last few years. While I believe that our approaches have improved we are constantly looking to enhance what we do.

Below are detailed some of the actions that we have taken to make the transition for pupils as smooth as possible.

Dedicated staff

We have a dedicated member of staff who works closely with the senior leadership team of our academy and she is given the time to visit and liaise with the primary schools.

This crucial member of staff is also responsible for organising the open evenings that we have when the pupils are in year 5 and then again when they progress to year 6. These evenings are very important.

When they take place, we try to avoid spending too much time in the hall talking and presenting but instead we offer active experiences with each of the subject areas.
I suspect that we are not alone in doing this, but the two evenings do give parents and their children the opportunity to visit the school and become familiar with our staff and the layout.

Opportunities to visit

In addition to the open evenings, we recognise the importance of working with our local community to develop cohesion and allow for a greater understanding of the challenges of secondary school.

Throughout the year we have a number of activities that enable the primary children to attend Neale-Wade and one of the most successful activities is our Mathematics Masterclass for all higher prior attaining pupils from our feeder schools.

Every week a group of 30 primary pupils will work with a member of our mathematics team to develop their problem-solving skills and work on topics and questions that will support preparation for key stage 2 SATs – specifically we focus on areas that will allow for key stage 2 SATs scaled scores of 110 and beyond. This has been very popular with the children, staff and parents.

Other subjects are also working with our feeder schools to offer facilities and activities that some primary schools may find it difficult to accommodate. For example, our head of science makes the labs available for year 6 pupils so that they are able to have full access to scientific equipment.

Our PE faculty has taken a similar approach by making sporting facilities available, but there is a double benefit in this respect as it provides an opportunity for our year 9 and year 10 students to coach the younger children (from year 3 upwards) and in turn develop their leadership capabilities. It is fantastic to see our students confidently coaching and developing an understanding of the demands of teaching.

We have successfully delivered the local inter-school district swimming championships for a number of years and this year we intend to run all of the summer sports days events at one of our feeder schools. This will involve joint working of staff and secondary school students. This all takes place during the school day and is in addition to the shared staff that operate at both Neale-Wade and one of our Active Learning Trust schools.

Working in the primary school

Over the last three years a PE specialist and a drama specialist have been working for a day a week at one off the primary schools. This has been a success and the pupils benefit from expert teaching while the primary school staff have a CPD opportunity when they observe and join in the teaching.

We have found that when the children join us in year 7 they have been operating at a higher level and our year 7 girls’ football team performed well in a national competition with the majority of the team coming from the primary school that has been receiving the specialist input.

The primary school has also been able to offer the Arts Award to a cohort of pupils to good effect. Other activities have included sending our Gardening Club members to a primary school to help set up their garden and work collaboratively with the younger pupils.

Extended experience

Elsewhere, we also have an extended period of time when all of our feeder primary schools send their children for a three-day secondary school experience.

We take all pupils, including those who may not necessarily be joining us in September. Furthermore, last year we also offered the opportunity to the children who were due to join a new secondary school that now also forms part of my executive principal role. This school hadn’t been fully built and so we decided to take an additional 125 pupils for the experience.

It meant that last year we had more than 400 year 6 children for three days and it was outstanding and inspiring to see how well our staff and students coped.

The week is structured to include an all-day sports festival, a day of extended writing projects and a day of practical activities. Last year we also asked Humanutopia ( to undertake some pastoral work on our behalf and it was a huge success.

This work means that students arrive in September confident and happy and hopefully they do not spend the summer holiday period worrying about joining secondary school.

On a practical note, we also encourage those who live out of the local town to try and use the school buses on one of the three days so that this particular process is demystified, too.

Parental engagement

I also believe it is important to work with parents as early as possible. Any primary students who have been identified as potential members of our year 7 nurture group are invited in each week over a six-week period to work on some fun activities with different members of staff and in conjunction with two members of staff who run our nurture group.

Parents are able to have an informal chat with staff and this means that a really strong relationship often develops prior to the official September start.

I also have lunch at one of our primary schools with a group of children who may be slightly anxious about the transition and they are able to ask me questions.
After lunch their parents attend and they can also raise any concerns that they may have.

I welcome the opportunity to do this as it gives me the chance to dispel any common misunderstandings, especially with regard to what is and isn’t acceptable uniform at the academy along with any individual questions the parents may have.

An extension of this work is to invite parents to Neale-Wade to meet with me and to see the school in operation. Last year more than 30 parents attended an informal meeting for a coffee and a biscuit. This is something that will continue this year.

This event came off the back of a comment from a primary headteacher who said that some of her parents were mindful of encountering “men in suits”. This was something that I wanted to address immediately and I believe that we have made significant progress in this area.

Facilities and equipment

Other things that we have done to support our local primary schools is give facilities and equipment free of charge, work collaboratively on common calculation policies, invite members of the primary school senior leadership team to our weekly raising attainment meetings and generally work with them whenever possible.


I always believe that more can be done but I am confident that we are moving in the right direction and supporting the children of our local town and surrounding villages.
Transition work is really worth taking the time to get right and it offers a wealth of developmental opportunities for staff, students and pupils alike.

  • Jason Wing is executive principal of Neale-Wade Academy, Littleport and East Cambs Academy and Burrowmoor Primary School. He is also a National Leader of Education and sits on the steering group for the government’s opportunity areas. To read his previous articles for SecEd, go to


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