From little school to big school

Monday 25th July 2022 by Caroline Masundire

Why support for transitions at key stages matter?

Our experiences at school as a child, adult or parent shape who we are and can last a lifetime.  We cannot underestimate the need for help and support as we transition through education, develop our aspirations and shape our careers.

My story

I don’t know about you but my transition from primary to secondary education was at best disruptive and at worst life changing.  Some said how lucky I was to be moved to live in another country and on the face of it yes it could have been lucky. But with my adult eyes, I can see how disruptive it was and how difficult it was to assimilate into a different culture, education system and without my siblings at the age of ten.  I moved in what was known then as Year 4 during the winter term, which is now Year 6 age 11, only to return to England 18 months later in the Spring term of my first year at Secondary school aged 12.  I stuck out as a sore thumb. 

All my primary school friends who moved to the school had formed their own friendship groups, thought I was weird for not saying goodbye when I left primary school (that is another story) and just as I was lonely in Athens, I was equally lonely back home.  This happened again in my fourth year of Secondary school when I was 15 but to a different country, again returning 18 months later and out of kilter with education and friends, trying to find my way and not doing a very good job at it.

Some 40 years later this still weighs heavily on my experience and the poor outcomes I had from education and although I have been fortunate to find my way into a rewarding career, this is very much by accident rather than design.

Cradle to career

We have been working in the Children and Young Peoples’ sector for many years helping organisations to better understand how they can improve education, employment and life outcomes for young people.  The role of schools, teachers and youth workers, as well as the experience and influence of families and peers are critical to whether children and young people have positive transitions through and from education.

Developing on this understanding, using the cradle to career framework has been a useful way of framing our research and evaluation across age groups, mapping the touchpoints that children and young people have within and outside of education, the role of their family, their community and socio-economic factors.  The Children’s Commissioner for England is also using this approach emanating from her work around the Big Ask – Jobs and skills | Children’s Commissioner for England (childrenscommissioner.gov.uk).  Transitions and how they are managed play a key role in outcomes for young people. 

The move from nursery to primary education, from Year 6 to Year 7, deciding on options at 14, looking to the future between 16 and 18 and that final push into adulthood at 21.  We cram in a lot of change as we grow.

Our recently published research into the role of transitions, socio-economic factors and education that have on young people’s aspirations in West Yorkshire West Yorkshire Violence Reduction Unit – Rocket Science (rocketsciencelab.co.uk) looks at these issues in depth.

This is an issue for all stakeholders in a place

Commissioned as one of four projects we delivered for the West Yorkshire Violence Reduction Unit our report, Raising Aspirations, draws together a review of evidence and learning, findings from consultations with young people and key stakeholders and a deep dive into six case studies looking at different aspects around aspirations, the role of positive experiences during transitions through education and the negative impact of school exclusions.

It’s a great read and full of learning and ideas about what we all need to do to support our children and young people through education.  And by we, I mean all of us; that’s parents, teachers, community leaders, peers, friends, children’s’ services, youth groups, colleges, careers leaders, businesses and national and regional government.

We reflect on learning from the Reach Academy which is using the cradle to career model in Hounslow, Volunteer it Yourself an organisation bringing trade skills to young people through volunteering as well as Stepping Stones.  This is a programme we are evaluating as part of the Young Londoners’ Fund for the Mayor of London which supports the transitions of vulnerable Year 7 children using peer mentors from Year 10.

There is lots to learn from all this great practice and insight, but as can be seen in our report on aspirations it is an area of great complexity and challenges.  Services working at odds with each other, lack of investment, focus on academic achievement and zero tolerance on behaviour all add up to make transitions and aspirations so challenging.

Can you imagine if we all collaborated and co-invested around this agenda, how outcomes for our children and young people could be so improved?

For more information about our work with Children and Young People contact Caroline Masundire (caroline.masundire@rocketsciencelab.co.uk) or Ciara Taylor (Ciara.taylor@rocketsciencelab.co.uk)

PS One of the main coincidences I have had in life has involved my colleague Emma Baker, whose father was also involved in the marine industry and went to the same school, lived in the same place as I did but some 25 years later.