Moving on to secondary school

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The move from primary to secondary education can be stressful for any young person. It can be especially difficult for people with learning disabilities or people with special educational needs (SEN).

This is because primary schools offer more predictability, usually with the same teacher and classroom throughout the year. The move to secondary school brings a lot of changes - different classrooms and different teachers for each subject, larger buildings spread over a campus, new travel arrangements and coping with support from unfamiliar teaching assistants.

If the transition between primary school and secondary school is not well-managed, children with learning disabilities or SEN can end up feeling isolated and vulnerable. Their emotional health suffers and so does their academic performance. A well-planned transition between primary and secondary phases will help remove any barriers to learning and enable them to reach their full academic potential as well as feeling less isolated.

The project team, a partnership between the Foundation, University of Northampton and University of Cambridge, met with pupils, school staff and parents in three Peterborough schools, to find out about their experiences of this transition.

We wanted to produce some resources to support schools to plan successful transitions. We spoke with around 20 pupils with SEN who had recently moved from primary to secondary school to find out what worked and what didn't work well when they moved school. We developed three guides.

Guides for pupils, parents and teachers


Top tips for pupils moving on to secondary school is an easy-read guide that includes a checklist and poster to give young people simple ideas of how to prepare for the move to make it less stressful.

Download the easy-read guide


Some practical ideas for families, to help support their child to feel more prepared and able to cope with the move to secondary school. This resource complements the top tips for pupils.

Download the guide


This guide is divided into good practice suggestions for primary and secondary school staff. Some of the ideas are very practical and can be achieved quickly, others may take a little more planning, and there are other suggestions to consider that will require strategic or systemic change.

Download the guide