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Put students’ learning needs first

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Media Release
19 April 2004

Put students’ learning needs first

Reducing achievement losses when students move between primary and secondary schools requires cooperation between teachers in both sectors and a greater focus on the learning needs of young adolescents, according to education consultants Kay Hawk and Jan Hill.

Hawk and Hill are presenting a paper entitled Transition traumas, traps, turning points and triumphs: Putting student needs first at PPTA’s Charting the Future: The Way Forward for Education conference in Wellington.

The paper summarises the national and international research and writing on student transition from school to school, and considers what schools and teachers can do to make the transition easier.

It says achievement can fall with any transition between primary and secondary schools for a variety of reasons including the different organisation and teaching and learning processes in secondary schools, a larger environment in which young adolescents are no longer the focus of attention, and in the case of some students, repetition of learning causing disillusionment.

Both Hill and Hawk say transition hurdles can be overcome through greater cooperation between secondary and primary schools and a better focus on the teaching and learning needs of young adolescents before and after transition.

“Secondary schools are by and large doing a good job with the social and orientation aspects of transition.

“However, research indicates that there is an interruption in student learning because of limited communication between teachers in the contributing schools and the secondary school. When information is used it is often used for placement rather than setting up teaching and learning programmes.”

The research does suggest that the fewer transitions that occur the better. However, Hawk and Hill say there is still no clear evidence to tell us which are the best years for transition to take place.

Some schools are using middle school models from other countries like the United States as the basis for justifying a year 7-10 middle school structure.

“Even with the best laid plans, if there is a drop in achievement with transition, it seems inappropriate for students to be moving between schools in year 11, the same year that they start national qualifications.

“We need to do more research about where New Zealand’s middle years are, rather than relying on overseas research derived from countries with different structures and qualifications systems.”


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