We have been fortunate to have benefited from the Norwich Opportunity Area (NOA), with transition being one of the supported areas. As part of the NOA Transition group’s wider aims and activities, we were encouraged and enabled to set up a series of visits – local primary school teachers visited the secondary schools and vice versa. Much was learnt from the visits, but the most important element of these events was the conversation that emerged organically between colleagues.
The NOA transition team further facilitated the conversation – which had by then taken on a life of its own – by booking a conference event where we could all get together. Occurring just before the closures, we were able to have unstructured, creative, unplanned talk, which would have been impossible in a Zoom meeting. There was a fluidity to the process which enabled true collaboration to take place. We discussed the key issues that had arisen from the visits: the lack of curriculum continuity in English; the lack of resources and CPD for primary colleagues in Science; the different behavioural expectations; the challenges for students to move around the Academy rather than having one teacher and one classroom; and the difference in approaches to SEND.
We wanted our project to span both year 6 and year 7. Both schemes ran for two weeks and had as an outcome a ‘best’ piece of creative writing. Our aims were to prepare year 6 students in the weeks after SATs with the English expectations at secondary school, and to enable our year 7 teachers to better understand the wealth of knowledge the children have, especially with regard to grammar, which has more status on the primary English curriculum than it does at secondary. We also wanted the secondary teachers to see what their students were truly capable of; there was a feeling that the children don’t always produce their best writing in the first weeks in year 7 (understandable, considering the summer learning loss and the challenges of transition), which leads to a lower baseline and therefore lower expectations over time. The hope was for primary colleagues to send the students’ stories to the secondary schools, so that their teachers had a baseline piece of work that was their absolute best.
As a group we met a few times all together, before branching off into our secondary team and primary team to plan the resources, and finally meeting again as a group at the end. We used a local legend as our starting point and developed an assessment mark scheme that combined elements from KS2 SATs English outcomes and the GCSE English language mark scheme. The resources are available to all local primary and secondary schools on the NOA website.