Transition to secondary school by children with special educational needs

  • Philip James Ellender

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    The last 40 years have witnessed huge changes in the educational experiences of children with Special Educational Needs (SEN), with increased emphasis on inclusive approaches to meeting their needs. This has been reflected in international agreements, also in UK Government legislation and reports during this period. Increasingly, pupils with SEN were educated in mainstream schools and so required to make a transition between schools at age 11. Successful transition from primary to secondary education is important for later wellbeing and attainment (West et al 2010). Pupils with SEN face increased demands as they move from spending most of the day with a single class teacher in their primary school to the organisational and relationship complexities of needing to work with several different adults during the week in the secondary setting. This research investigated the experiences of children with SEN statements as they made the potentially difficult transition from mainstream primary to mainstream secondary school. It explored those social, academic and personal organisation matters often mentioned by children as of concern to them at time of transition. A largely qualitative approach was adopted, exploring the views of children, parents and school staff about this process and the approaches taken by mainstream schools in an English Local Authority to facilitate the transition experience for the children involved.

    Evidence was collected through questionnaires and interviews, and analysed for purposes of this research with the use of vignettes. It was found that the children interviewed looked forward with a mixture of excitement and concern. Most optimism was expressed about the prospect of enhanced opportunities in sport, science and school lunch! There were three broad areas of concern; social concerns ranging from making new friendships to fear of bullying; academic concerns relating to the anticipated increased amount/complexity of the work and decreased support for their specific difficulties; and worries about personal organisation in a larger school with different subjects each requiring specific materials. The eight primary and three secondary schools visited during this research all made arrangements to introduce children to their new school in advance of transfer, with additional activities for children with SEN. Post-transition interviews with the remaining seven participants demonstrated that transition proceeded smoothly, and that any concerns expressed in year 6 were unfounded. The original contribution of this longitudinal research has been to demonstrate the difference between participants' pre-transition expectations and eventual reality, also to ascertain what features participants identified as the most effective in facilitating transition, for a sample of pupils with widely varying SEN.
    Date of Award2014
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Northampton
    SupervisorCristina Devecchi (Supervisor) & Richard Rose (Supervisor)

    Cite this