Checklist for Teachers

Bearing in mind that terminology and dates may vary slightly between local authorities, these are some thoughts around transition to high school that parents may find useful:

What information is passed on to high schools about my child?

Primary schools have had up to 7 years to get to know your child. They will have built up a comprehensive picture of your child including a summary of their attainment, their difficulties and what strategies work (as well as don’t work). They will have a good insight into what your child likes and doesn’t like in the school setting. Any interventions or professional supports which have been used will be logged in your child’s learning profile.

Schools will have established ways of passing on this knowledge. There will be transition spreadsheets which capture some of the data as well as face to face meetings between teachers in both schools. Strict procedures will be in place for passing on any data, and these will be even more severe around welfare and child protection information.

Further consideration from you may be required around issues of:

  • Masking – if your child’s behaviour is considerably different in home and school settings, the whole picture may not be evident to teachers.
  • Adoption Files – if you are concerned that information prior to adoption may still reside in your child’s files, you may wish to file a Subject Access Request. More information is available in this factsheet.

What transition events will take place for my child?

Primary and Secondary schools will have well established procedures and timelines for the delivery of a transition programme for all primary pupils. Throughout the P7 year there will be opportunities for your child to become familiar with secondary staff and to see the new building. Some things you may encounter are concert or drama performances hosted in high school; an event for cluster primaries eg Maths Mixer or Sport Tournament where children from different primaries mingle; an open evening; 2-3 Day Transition visit. There may be primary-secondary projects built around a book or topic where the children do some work in primary and complete this in secondary.

Is there a timeline for transition events?

Transition supports are likely to begin in earnest from February onwards. Firstly, primary-secondary liaison meetings for teachers, then opportunities for pupils to meet secondary teachers, class led activities supporting transition and finally the 2-3 day visit in June.

Further consideration from you may be required around issues of:

  • Additional Support Needs – if your child has additional needs, and I would suggest that being adopted is enough to be considered an additional need, then you are likely to want an enhanced transition from school. That means that your child will be offered more supports than those outlined above.
  • Pandemic Restrictions – it is likely that this year, transition supports will be impacted by government restrictions. You should expect schools to replicate many of these supports online if there are still face-to-face restrictions in place.

Will my child have an enhanced transition?

Those children with additional needs are likely to need increased supports to manage the transition to high school successfully. Children who are care-experienced should be already part of the Getting it right for every child (GRIFEC) system and have regular planning meetings. These meetings track the strengths, difficulties and strategies used to support your child as well as record future action points.

Certainly, parents should request a GIRFEC meeting to discuss transition if one hasn’t been offered already. A representative from secondary school would be invited to the meeting and any supports documented. One action point  for inclusion in the enhanced transition programme which schools run. Perhaps a special project that runs over several mornings eg forest school activities to build relationships or making a film introducing high school staff to share with classmates.

Schools may offer different layers of enhanced supports. Perhaps, some lessons looking at supporting organisation skills, reducing anxiety or building friendships. They may offer additional visits which are less intensive than the full enhanced transition programme.

Further consideration from you may be required around issues of:

  • Balancing needs– it may be that your child does not want to appear different and would rather not take part in enhanced transition programmes.
  • GIRFEC meetings – the way to access further supports from partner agencies can be the action points recorded during these meetings. For example, care-experience funds have been used to establish mentoring services and forest schools which are often run by partner agencies.

How can I support my child?

The way parents approach the transition can shape a child’s responses. It helps if parents emphasise safety measures and support mechanisms which exist and if they talk confidently about their child’s strengths. Here are some things parents can do to prepare their child.

  • Rehearse new things – Practise the route to and from school. Identify possible hazards eg looking at phone while crossing road. Rehearse worse case scenarios eg lost bus fare and make a plan for if the worse does happen.
  • Practice meeting new people – Rehearse things to say and do when meeting new classmates eg Remember some facts about them. Ask them questions about themselves eg What primary school did you go to? What did you most like? Do you know anyone at high school?
  • Virtual Transition – Watch the virtual transition files together. Print off maps and useful guides.
  • Positive language – Talk confidently about your child’s strengths. Remind them of their past successes – times they were worried or learning something new and then succeeded.
  • Minimise your own anxiety while bravely listening to your child’s worries. Sit with them. Without minimising their worries, remind them of their strengths. They are not alone.

Further consideration from you may be required around issues of:

  • Listening to your child – The 12-year-old child has a different view of the world to an adult. They may have views about which school and friendships are important to them. Take time to listen to them. Can you take their views on board? Take time to explain your thinking so that your child feels validated.
  • Transition anxiety – Conscious or subconscious memories of unpleasant or dramatic transitions in the past can bring controlling behaviours to the fore as the child tries to cope with these big feelings of change and loss.
  • Developmental issues – Your child’s executive function skills may require support. They may need more help planning and organising themselves than the average 12-year-old. Using visual planners, checklists and chunking instructions can reduce their stress load and make success more likely.

Do I know who to contact if I need more information?

Both parents and teachers want to get it right for the child.

If you do not feel comfortable with the supports in place, then contact your child’s school to discuss your concerns. You can also take matters into your own hands by producing your own handover document for secondary staff. Adoption UK have a factsheet that might be useful for this.

If you are concerned that the school does not understand the needs of your care-experienced child, you may wish to seek support from the Virtual Head for your local authority.

Remember too that Adoption UK offer a variety of supports to both families and schools. If you are looking for a bit more support, give the helpline a call.