Preparing Students for the Transition to Post Primary School: Information for Primary School Teachers

The aim of this blog post is to provide information to primary school teachers on the main things they need to know about post primary, what they can do to help their students transition successfully, and where to find resources.

What 6th Class Teachers and SETs Need to do:

Teachers who are new to 6th class may not be familiar with how information is passed on from primary to post primary schools, so the following is a brief summary.

  • Education passport: The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) has developed an Education Passport to support the transfer of student information from primary to post-primary school. They have a webpage (pictured) which supplies all of the necessary documentation for schools and explains the process. Teachers should be aware that the 6th class children’s end of year report cards will be passed on to the post primary school as part of the education passport.

  • The post primary school principal or SENCO will usually contact the primary school to discuss/ plan for the transition of pupils with SEN. If you haven’t heard from them by early February, it is a good idea for the primary school’s SENCO to make contact to arrange for the timely transfer of information. This is particularly important for students who will be enrolling in special classes, for those needing school transport, or for those who will need SNA access at post primary level as the NCSE has deadlines for schools for applying for school transport/ special class places, and the school will need to plan for how they allocate their SNA hours. 

Challenges for Students:

I recently asked the PP teachers who follow me on Instagram what the main difficulties faced by first year students are, and this is what they said:

  • Organising belongings and books
  • How to read a timetable
  • How to operate lockers
  • Study skills
  • Finding their way from room to room

With that in mind, below are some ideas for primary school teachers to help prepare their students for the transition to post primary.

Ideas to help for all students:

  • In some areas the principal of the local post primary school(s) will pay a visit to the primary school’s 6th (and often 5th) classes. This can be helpful for sharing information about the school, setting expectations, and also so the children get to meet the principal in advance.
  • During the final term of 6th class, a visit from some of the students who left 6th class the previous year, and who are now coming to the end of first year, can be helpful. They can tell the 6th class students about what post primary is like, what they wish they had know in advance, their tips, and answer questions.
  • Ask for sample timetables from the PP schools and during the final term of 6th class, teach the students how to read them.
  • Request a copy of the post primary schools’ rules and go through them with the children. 
  • Colour code copies and books to assist with organisational skills e.g., have a coloured sticker on each book/ copy for maths so the children can find them more easily. This can be especially helpful for children with SEN.
  • Teach the words for the different subject areas e.g., home economics, business studies, modern foreign languages etc., so that the children know what the new subjects will be.
  • Give project work/ homework assignments that resemble the CBAs that students will need to do.
  • Record homework in the journal at the end of each lesson as opposed to writing it all down at once at the end (as this is how it will be done in post primary school).

Ideas to help students With SEN:

  • For children with complex SEN, the NCSE recommends that planning for the transition to post primary should start when the child is in 4th or 5th Class
  • Both NEPS and the NCSE have guidance documents in relation to this (links in the resource section below)
  • The NEPS psychologist can be contacted for advice regarding the transition of children with SEN, and may need to be involved in creating a transition plan for the student (in conjunction with the child’s parents and the post primary school). In some cases, an updated psychological report may be necessary, for instance with a recommendation for a special school placement for post primary and the NEPS psychologist may need to do this.
  • For children with anxiety or for autistic children, a visit to the post primary school during 6th class can be very helpful and post primary schools are usually good to facilitate such visits (which may take place on the post primary school’s half day so that the building is quieter and less overwhelming for the students). The child’s SET/ SNA/ parent would usually be involved in such a visit. It can also be helpful to look at the website/ social media pages of the post primary school with the child, or to request a copy of the post primary school’s homework journal and to go through it with the child to help them prepare.
  • A social story or booklet with photos and information about the child’s new school may be beneficial. There is an example of this in the NEPS transition workbook.
  • If it is possible for the primary school to purchase some lockers, children with SEN could practice using them during 6th class.
  • Request a copy of the post primary school’s homework journal and go through it with the child. The journal can often contain useful information such as a school map or details about school staff and general information about the school. 
  • Be aware that as part of the new Junior Cycle, at post primary level children with learning difficulties have the option of a Level 1 or Level 2 Learning Programme. Students following the Level 1 Learning Programmes (L1LPs) can engage with up to six Priority Learning Units (PLUs) and two short courses. The Level 2 Learning Programmes (L2LPs) are made up of five Priority Learning Units and two short courses. Their learning is recorded on a Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement in the same way as for all other students.

Useful Resources:

  • Stepup.ie is a useful website to share with parents of all 6th class pupils as it gives information about what school life is like at post primary level. 

  • The website jct.ie has an excellent information leaflet for parents of children in primary school which explains the new structure of Junior Cycle to them. It may be helpful to circulate this to parents of 6th class children and for 6th class teachers to have a look at too.

  • Both NEPS and the NCSE have guidance documents on the transition to post primary school.
  • The NCSE has a document for parents, as well as an explainer video, which would be useful for primary teachers to share with parents of 6th class students with SEN.

  • NEPS has 3 documents which are very useful; the transfer form mentioned already (in the section on what teachers need to do), a workbook for students to complete, and a resource pack for supporting autistic pupils, all of which are available here.

Jigsaw.ie has information and resources about minding your mental health as you start secondary school, and a poster to display in the classroom. 

Helpmykidlearn.ie has a transition booklet that all 6th class students could complete in their final term of primary school. You can order printed copies of it for €2 each, or you can print it from the pdf on their website. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Changes at Post Primary Level That Primary Teachers Should be Aware Of:

There have been big changes at post primary level in recent years. This has made it challenging for primary school teachers who wish to help prepare their students for the transition, as things are very different now to their own time in post primary.  

Firstly, some commonly used acronyms that you may encounter:  

Acronyms:

  • CBA = Classroom-Based Assessment
  • AT = Assessment Tasks
  • JCPA = Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement
  • PLUs = Priority Learning Units
  • L1LP = Level 1 Learning Programmes
  • L2LP = Level 2 Learning Programmes

The Major Changes at Post Primary Level:

  • The Junior Certificate is no more! It is now called the Junior Cycle and is quite different to its predecessor. The website jct.ie provides detailed information, and a range of useful leaflets that outline the changes, but I will briefly outline some of the main points below.
  • The aim of the new Junior Cycle is for students to engage more actively in their learning, engage with digital media, and to develop 8 key skills (pictured).

  • The subjects on offer for the JC are also pictured below. Short courses have been made available by the NCCA in Coding, Chinese Language and Culture, Digital Media Literacy, Artistic Performance, Philosophy, Civic, Social and Political Education, Physical Education, and Social Personal and Health Education. Schools choose what subjects and courses offer as part of their programme.

  • Students can study a max of 10 subjects, or 9 subjects plus 2 short courses, or 8 subjects plus 4 short courses.
  • The Junior Cycle now includes Classroom Based Assessments (CBAs) which are facilitated by the class teachers. One CBA will take place in second year and one in third year for most subjects. The class teacher marks the CBAs. Students will complete a written Assessment Task (AT) that requires them to reflect on the skills, knowledge and understanding that they have developed throughout their experience with the second CBA. The AT is marked externally by the State Examinations Commission and this AT will account for 10% of the final grade in a subject. 

  • Students will undertake an exam in each subject at the end of third year that is externally set and corrected. The marking system that is in place has completely changed. It now operates as pictured.

  • Wellbeing is also emphasised through Civic, Social and Political Education (CSPE), Physical Education (PE), Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) and Guidance education.
  • At the end of the Junior Cycle, a student’s learning is recorded on a Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement (JCPA) document.
  • Students have the opportunity to engage with a range of other learning experiences as part of the Junior Cycle. The JCPA document also includes space where these achievements (such as membership of the student council, clubs or societies, or participation in sporting activities, science fairs, musical performances or debating competitions) can be recorded. 

Thanks:

I am extremely grateful to the Post Primary teachers who follow my Instagram page and who made contributions to this post, and most especially to Dee who is behind the excellent Post_Primary_Resource_Teacher page on Instagram for her advice in writing this post and for pointing me in the direction of some of the resources that are mentioned above. I would highly recommend following her page if you are preparing children with SEN for the transition to post primary. 

 

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