Lost in transition

Abbigail is nervously awaiting her first day at secondary
school. Like thousands of 11-year-olds around the UK she is facing
one of the most notoriously traumatic leaps that education has to
offer. She will be expected to adapt to the new environment, cope
with losing old friends, make new ones and get to know a
bewildering array of teachers.

Many children find the move unsettling and the dip in academic
performance between key stages 2 and 3 is a well-established

For Abbigail, leaving the supportive environment of her primary
school is most daunting. “It’s a lot of fun and the teachers
are alright to you. They’re kind,” she says. “We’ve got
toilet passes so that if you need the toilet you can go and get the
teacher. And we’ve got playground friends and prefects who
walk around the school to see if there are people who
shouldn’t be inside.”

Abbigail is one of around 30 children from five primary schools
attending a Summer Success Club in Harehills, Leeds. Organised by
education charity Learning Partnerships the club aims to ease the
children’s anxieties about leaving primary school and give
them a chance to meet other children who will be attending their
new school.

Sam is also sad to be leaving his primary school as it will mean
giving up his position as a prefect.

“It’s good being a prefect because you can tell people
what to do. You’re not allowed to boss them about or nothing
but you can tell them what to do. I think our school’s a bit
poor though. We had to pay £30 to go on a trip.”

“Your school’s not poor,” says Delroy. “I think it’s
rich. We had to pay £50 to go to Whitby for three days.”

Most of the children see the chance to make new friends as one
of the main advantages of moving schools, although some are
concerned at losing touch with the friends they have at the moment.
“We are all going to different schools so that we can meet other
friends,” says Issy. “But then we will be phoning up each other
asking what it’s like.”

“Me and Sam are getting split up,” says Michael. “But
it’ll be alright. We’ll still see each other because we
live just round the corner.”

Kelly says: “I’ve already made some friends from the new
school because we had a visit.”

Indeed, in an effort to ease the transition many of the children
have already had the chance to visit their new school.

“It was a bit scary and I was a bit nervous,” says Kelly. “It
was really big. You go down one corridor and then you get

Delroy says: “I did get lost. I went in one room and I
couldn’t find my way out. I kept knocking on people’s

“I’ve seen some of the teachers,” says Sam. “And they were
just shouting.”

Michael and Halima, however, have brothers and sisters already
at secondary school and appear a lot more relaxed about moving on.
“It’s not that scary because I’ve got family there and
friends. I know loads of people,” says Michael.

When it comes to specific concerns about what may be in store
for them at their new school, the children cite fears over
bullying, the journey to school and discipline.

“I’m worried about getting bashed,” says Kelly.

Delroy says: “They flush your head down the toilet. Loads of
people who go to Primrose [High School] say that.”

Abbigail, meanwhile, is dreading her new journey to school.
“I’m worried about getting up at half past five in the
morning, so I can get my shower and everything and not be late for
school,” she says. “You’ve got to be on the bus for 10 past

Issy is worried about the disciplinary measures. “You get
punished don’t you? You get detention if you are bad.”

Despite these anxieties all the children agree that there is
much to look forward to. “You go to different lessons every hour
and you learn lots of different languages,” says Kelly.

Michael is looking forward to science lessons because “you get
to do stuff” while Halima is eyeing up the new school’s IT
facilities. “They’ve got lots of computers and you can use
them at break time,” she says.

For Delroy it is the school’s incentive system, leisure
facilities and sporting record that holds the most interest. “At
Primrose if you are good for a whole year then you get to go on a
trip. And they’ve got pool tables in the dining room. They
are no good at football though. I heard they lost one match

After a year in the top age group of their primary school, being
the youngest members of their new school will seem strange. “That
won’t be fair,” says Delroy. “We used to be the youngest,
then the old people left and we were the oldest. But now
we’ll be the youngest again.”

“They’ll be picking on us,” says Sam.

“Yeah,” says Delroy “They might not let us go on the pool

Most of the children admit to concern about being bullied at
their new school. Some, however, have their strategies for coping
already figured out.

“I’ll push them all out the way,” says Delroy. “Hit
’em back and run away. If they push you around and you just
walk away then they’ll think you’re not hard.
You’re just like a little thing. Like a little toy and they
can mess you around.”

“You can go to the library,” says Halima. “They won’t push
you around there unless they want to get on the computers or

“You push ’em back and run away,” says Sam. “So when the
teacher comes and says ‘Why were you fighting?’ you
just say ‘No, I weren’t fighting’. I
wouldn’t go to the teacher though. I’d stand there and
fight like a big man.”

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