Transitioning from primary school to secondary school
Starting secondary school is an important milestone for all students. It can involve many changes such as new travel arrangements, new teachers, a different school setting and new classmates. Moving from one secondary school to a new secondary school can involve similar changes. For students with disabilities and their families these changes can be particularly challenging.
On this page:
Planning the transition
- the school principal (or nominee)
- a key teacher (or teachers) from secondary school
- the student and their parents
Key teacher(s) from primary school may also be involved during the transition planning stage. Health professionals who work with the student, such as speech pathologists or occupational therapists can be invited to join the SSG.
Members of the SSG work out what adjustments the school needs to make so that a student with a disability can fully participate in all aspects of school life. This may include making changes to the buildings and classrooms (for example, adding ramps, or creating quiet spaces), providing assistive devices and furniture (for example, providing ‘cut out’ desks) or allowing students to use specialist software and personalised computer settings (for example, software for writing and translating Braille). The SSG provides ongoing support for the student throughout their schooling. This involves the regular monitoring of adjustments in relation to the student’s educational progress and care for their overall wellbeing at school.
It is important that the student can have input into their IEP and let their new teachers know about their likes, dislikes, favourite past-times and hopes for the future. This can be done in the form of an about me statement (from page 35) that the student can respond to in words, writing or pictures.
This will help secondary teachers to draw on a student’s interests and strengths to create learning goals that fit with the curriculum of secondary school.
Be sensitive to cultural and language differences. Check that the family are comfortable with all aspects of the learning plan. If you develop the goals and strategies together everyone will likely have more commitment to them.
Supporting a student with the transition
A student with a disability may feel anxious about the upcoming changes. In particular, many students may worry about whether they can manage school work and homework in secondary school. Some may be anxious about changes to routines and friendships. Below are a few strategies for teachers that may help a student with the transition:
Consider a student's strengths and needs when planning orientation activities
Tell students what doesn’t change from primary to secondary
Local primary schools can partner with secondary schools
Provide visual supports
Consider a peer buddy system or a safe person/space for students
Help them access positive stories about high school
- ‘Do activities allow a teen who has a physical disability or who has low or blind vision to join in?’
- ‘Have we planned for activities in small groups or pairs for teens who feel anxious or overwhelmed in large groups?’
- ‘How can we manage noise levels on the day?’