Transitioning from Primary to Secondary with Care and Support

Transitioning from Primary to Secondary is a time of emotional, social, and physiological change for both children and their parents. Students must adapt to new surroundings, learn new ways of working, get to know their new teachers and peers, and get acquainted with their new learning environments. Maintaining the students’ wellbeing during the transition process is pivotal to a successful continuation of their learning. 

So, how does YCIS Shanghai help prepare its students for Secondary and make the change easier for them?

“There are numerous ways the school supports students. This includes academic support programmes, peer-to-peer learning, and pastoral support from homeroom teachers, year level leaders, coordinators, and school counselling teams,” says Ms Ying Xu, School Counsellor at YCIS Puxi.

“We help students develop organisational skills and lay the foundations for good independent study habits. Organisational skills include having a visual calendar where all activities can be added and developing skills in the areas of preparing the study environment, routines, interactions, and relationships,” says Ms Jana van Zyl, ECE and Primary Student Wellness Coordinator at YCIS Puxi. “Each day, students choose how they learn best, such as selecting a study place that suits their tasks, or selecting manipulatives in Mathematics classes,” adds Ms Joan Chen, Year 6 Leader at YCIS Pudong.

Primary students are familiar with the Learning Community model, where they work with different peers and teachers across all subjects. This also reflects the set-up in Secondary school.

 “Students regularly work on projects with their peers across homerooms and have been introduced to platforms such as SharePoint and Teams,” says Mr Robert Cooke, Year 6 Leader at YCIS Pudong. “These are already used in Secondary and enable multiple students to collaborate on projects at the same time,” Mr Cooke adds.

“There are many bridging opportunities for Year 5 and Year 6 students to participate with Secondary students in some CCAs, student leadership, House activities, and Whole School Assemblies, giving them invaluable experiences, and developing their independence,” adds Ms Janelle Garrett, Lower Secondary Coordinator at YCIS Pudong.

Primary and Secondary staff play critical roles in supporting the transition of all students. Primary campuses are responsible for preparing students academically and socially for Secondary and sharing information with the students, families, and Secondary staff. Secondary campuses need to ensure that their values, ethical orientation, and culture are welcoming and supportive. 

“Creating a sense of belonging in the new environment is the process of re-building the elements that create a feeling of comfort, such as friendships, identity, and time and energy commitment. Because these elements are all connected, increasing any of these will impact the other areas,” says Ms Biteena Frazier, School Counsellor at YCIS Puxi. 

“Parents, too, can use this framework for supporting their children. For example, if, half-way through the year, a child says that he/she does not have friends, a parent can encourage an increase in his/her commitment. This could include getting involved in the annual musical or drama production or joining the Boy/Girl Scouts,” suggests Ms Frazier. 

There are other steps parents can follow to guide their children through the transition process.  

“Parents have an important role in supporting their children’s transition to Secondary. They can ensure their children read a range of books daily, strengthen their mother tongue, help them secure the use of the four operations in Mathematics, and recognise mathematical relationships in real-life contexts,” adds Ms Sasha Dalmonego, Upper Primary Coordinator and Year 6 Leader at YCIS Puxi.

“We support parents in developing independence through responsibility and accountability. Family meetings are a platform to build confidence and grow a child’s independence, as well as maintaining connections and teaching problem solving,” says Ms van Zyl. “Every year, we also host information sessions for parents, either in person or through a webinar, discussing some of the details of the transition to Secondary and offering tips for how parents can support their child during this important stage,” adds Ms Garrett.

The transition process is a normal one and parents can feel assured that their child will adjust. This certainty supports students in their transition. 

Ms Alana Haggarty, Lower Secondary Coordinator at YCIS Puxi, adds that, as a school, "We want to show our parents how our Primary and Secondary campuses work together to support their children and the transition. It should be seen as ‘just a walk down the road’ rather than a massive leap to a new school.”

Although it might seem like a challenging time for both students and parents alike, moving from Primary to Secondary can be a wonderful and rewarding experience. The school offers various information sessions for parents throughout the year to better understand this process and provide support.

 “Transitioning from Primary to Secondary can be a destabilising and anxious time but, much like the trapeze artist who must let go of one bar before catching the next, it is an essential component of the transition experience,” says Ms Frazier.

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