In the coming week or so many Year 6 pupils will be heading off to their future secondary school for their Induction day.   Some pupils may be lucky and have some kind of foreign language experience on that day, but many will not.  Exploiting occasions like the Year 6/7 Induction day was one of the strategies for smoothing the transition between KS2 and 3 discussed recently during a workshop on Transition held during Network for Languages’ Summer school attended by participants of the LSEF legacy project.

The Language Trends survey published in April revealed that 49% of primary schools surveyed had had no contact with language specialists in their local secondary school; this was an increase from the previous survey where the figure was 46%. Only 22% of state secondary schools could guarantee that Year 7 pupils could continue with the language learnt at primary school – down from 27%.  However only 8% of the language departments in secondary schools surveyed stated that they had no contact any primary school which is down from 18%, so at least one statistic is heading in a positive direction. 

This serves really to underline the fact that for transition to have any chance of success then more needs to be done to facilitate contact and dialogue between the teachers from the two key stages.  At the workshop session that we held at the University in June the following were all suggested as strategies that could be used to bridge the gap in the transition from KS2 – 3:

  1. Use a text or story across both phases as a transition project.  Un lion à Paris by Beatrice Alemagna  in which the lion’s experience of being king of the savannah to a ‘nobody’ in Paris mirrors that of Year 6 pupils, some of whom may be moving from their one form entry primary school to a 5 or 6 form entry secondary school, would be one such suitable text.
  2. Get the support of the Senior leadership teams at both primary and secondary levels to facilitate the introduction of cross phase observations and meetings, ideally within school time.  This would allow for better alignment of teaching methodology and content through better awareness of the distinctive approaches at each key stage. 
  3. Consider ways in which vocabulary and structures can be recycled but using different contexts.  Adopting a CLIL approach can be helpful here.
  4. Focus on the development of language learning skills at primary level, so that pupils are able to build on what they have learnt before and make progress in their language learning at their secondary school, even if they are learning a different language from that learnt at KS2.  By the same token secondary teachers need to be aware of the sort of skills that pupils bring from their primary schools and make sure that they capitalise on that.  The resources produced by the Expert subject advisory group can be really helpful here, especially Appendices B, C & D of their document relating to Assessment in Modern Foreign Languages in the Primary school.  This document refers, amongst other things, to: de-coding skills, appreciating and exploiting the value of high frequency language, dictionary skills, awareness of the sound/spelling link (phonics) and memory skills.
  5. Using assessment and audit tools to share information about what content has been covered and skills developed, including progress made by individual pupils. Secondary schools that have a large number of feeder schools might consider devising a ‘self assessment’ form for pupils to complete at the start of year 7 to help place pupils in the most appropriate group given their prior experience.

As we approach the end of the second year of compulsory languages at Primary level we perhaps need to ask ourselves, depending on the phase we work in, have we done enough either prepare our pupils for language learning in KS3 or to build on what pupils have achieved at KS2, and if the answer is ‘No’ then think about how we might address that.

Do share your experiences of the transition process by making a comment.