The notion of transition is more broadly defined than the moment of transfer from Year 6 into Year 7, to include a better understanding of progression across the first seven years of language learning covered by the 2014 KS2 and KS3 Programmes of Study.

“The need to promote effective transition in languages between Key Stages 2 and 3 is not yet high on the agendas of either primary or secondary schools.”
(Language Trends Survey, 2015)

In the 2015 Language Trends Survey, some 44% responding primary schools reported that they have no contact at all with the language departments of local secondary schools. In some cases this is a standstill position of generally weak primary – secondary links; in other cases collaboration that existed previously now no longer exists, partly as a result of the decline in specialist language colleges.

Where there is contact between primary and secondary schools, it is most often a simple informal exchange of information or participation in networks / cluster meetings.

“The introduction of compulsory language learning has not yet stimulated increased contact between language teachers in state primary and secondary schools.”
(Language Trends Survey, 2015)

As part of the Association for Language Learning ALL Connect programme, developed and delivered as a result of Department for Education funding (2014-2016), primary and secondary teachers have had the opportunity to come together.

It is clear that we have much in common:

Primary teachers…

  • have a professional concern for language transition questions
  • care about their pupils’ future education and have strong relationships with their pupils
  • don’t want their work to be wasted when pupils move on to secondary school
  • usually live and work in communities where they will meet ex-pupils or parents or siblings who will comment on their transition experience.

Secondary teachers…

  • share these concerns
  • have a direct interest in getting transition right because progress and ultimately, attainment depend on it
  • know that a smooth continuation in learning is vital, and this includes an awareness of the topics, vocabulary, levels, skills and interest / enthusiasm pupils have developed
  • want to know about the learning experiences Y6 pupils have had: e.g. if they have written stories, filmed presentations, learned songs, used Skype, mixed foreign language learning into everyday exchanges.

And what do pupils want?
Pupils want…

  • secondary teachers to know what their achievements and successes have been in primary languages and how much they have enjoyed it
  • their secondary school teachers to know them as people the same way their primary class teacher did.

These shared concerns are a positive driver for collaboration. In addition, we now have a statutory Programme of Study; we have a national framework laying out the expectations for language learning outcomes over 7 years from Year 3 to Year 9 and the requirement that the GCSE examinations will build on prior programmes of study at KS2 and KS3.

Joining up KS2 and KS3 is arguably the most important piece of work that many of us will do in our careers over the next decade. The level of responsibility for this will differ; heads of languages in secondary schools have no choice but to grapple with it or their learners will struggle to reach the levels required at the end of KS4. Moreover, all secondary classroom teachers have the responsibility to respond to what the learners in front of them know – to build on that knowledge, to notice the repertoire they already have, and not to assume a ‘from zero’ approach in Y7, whilst all primary languages teachers must be confident that they have given their pupils the best possible start to language learning, delivering on the expectations for the first four years of compulsory study.

At KS3 we will get it right when we organise the learning in such a way as to allow learners to show us what they already know and how well they have mastered this knowledge, such that we can quickly build constructively on prior learning, avoiding as far as possible any downturn in either achievement or motivation. We want to welcome previous knowledge and make it clear that it all counts. We will know we are getting it right when learners are positively motivated in the classroom and they make rapid and sustained progression in the subject.

At KS2 we will get it right when we ensure that language learning is given sufficient time within the curriculum, when lessons are regular and do not get dropped for special events (more than any other curriculum subject), when we are confident in our teaching, well-resourced, planning for progression such that we meet the requirements of the KS2 Programme of Study, and when we sustain enthusiasm and interest across all four years of compulsory language learning.

As teachers of KS2 and KS3 we have every reason to build excellent cross-phase relationships. Let’s seize the day!

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