Becky Catlin is the More Able Coordinator at NACE member and Challenge Award-accredited Sir Christopher Hatton Academy. In this blog post, she shares examples of practical initiatives to smooth the transition from KS2 to KS3 for all involved – including Family Challenge Evenings, interventions for underachieving students, combined training days for primary and secondary staff, and a new award celebrating extracurricular academic achievement.

At Sir Christopher Hatton Academy (SCHA), and across the Hatton Academies Trust, we carefully tailor the transition period between KS2 and KS3 to support our more able learners, working together across primary and secondary academies to ensure that transition is a positive, smooth experience.

We believe that the ability and resilience we may often see more able learners demonstrate cannot be taken for granted during this period. Transition must be seen as an opportunity for learners to grow in confidence as they overcome new challenges, guarding against the risk that missing links will impact negatively on learners’ confidence or progress.

As well as prioritising good communication between schools regarding identification and specific details of learners’ abilities and skills, SCHA stages a series of events across the year to ensure more able learners from our 10 feeder primary schools across Wellingborough feel confident and prepared for their transition to secondary school. We also run events for parents of more able learners, and bring together primary and secondary practitioners to collaborate for continuous improvements to provision both before and after transition to KS3.

More Able Taster Day

At our More Able Taster Day in October, a group of 20-30 Year 6 students join us for a full secondary school-style day of lessons and critical thinking challenges. The format enables them to experience and start preparing for the differences they will encounter when they make the transition to secondary school, as well as offering the opportunity to make new friends and work in different teams. Students finish the day with an increased awareness of the new setting they will face, experience of the differences in lesson structure, and the style of academic challenge that will be expected of them.

Family Challenge Evenings

Priority is given to parental communication and involvement leading up to and following the transition to KS3. We stage Family Challenge Evenings for more able learners in Year 5 from across our catchment and again for more able learners in Year 7. These evenings give parents an opportunity to work alongside their child and experience for themselves the kind of challenges their child will experience during a school day at SCHA. This is also an opportunity to meet with key staff involved in our More Able Programme and hear about the opportunities that will be available to more able learners throughout their time at the academy.

More Able Welcome Assembly

The More Able Welcome Assembly for Year 7 offers learners an opportunity to reflect on their identification as “more able”, and the skills and motivation they will need to apply to succeed at the challenges ahead. The assembly gives an introduction to mindset theory and metacognition, which we value highly as tools for nurturing independent, confident learners. Establishing expectations and attitudes to learning has led to an excellent first year of academic success and progress for our Year 7 students.

Challenge Training Days

As a Teaching School and an NFER-accredited Research School, sharing good practice and learning from one another is at the core of what we do. Last year, the academy launched a first annual Challenge Training Day, bringing together staff and learners from across the primary and secondary academies in our multi-academy trust. Primary school students spent the morning participating in challenging KS3 lessons across a variety of subject areas, which all staff observed. In the afternoon, learners were treated to some fun team challenges and quizzes, while staff shared their observations from the morning and discussed methods for improving transition in both primary and secondary settings. Later this year, the Challenge Training Day will offer secondary staff the opportunity to observe and learn from colleagues in primary settings.

Identifying areas for improvement

As a result of the Challenge Training Day, we identified several focus areas to improve provision at both KS2 and KS3. Increased independence across the school day was identified as a focus for primaries, while our secondary academy identified increased opportunities for project-based learning and cross-curricular links as effective in encouraging original, innovative thinking and pursuing supra-curricular knowledge for our more able. This generated the idea for project-based critical thinking interventions for more able underachievers at KS3, which have proved both engaging and effective at developing learners’ skills and boosting their progress.

Keeping the momentum going…

The academy has also introduced the Hatton Baccalaureate Award for our Year 8 students as an opportunity for extracurricular academic challenge, and a method of avoiding a potential dip in motivation in the middle of KS3. The Baccalaureate offer students the chance to win awards for their curricular and extracurricular achievements, as well as awards for attendance, behaviour, contribution to the community and events or activities that demonstrate an interest in building towards a future career. The programme culminates in a self-directed individual project and a graduation ceremony with gowns.

The measures detailed here enable students to recognise the culture of aspiration, pride in high achievement and challenge for all that Sir Christopher Hatton Academy values very highly. These initiatives set high expectations, but also ensure that learners feel safe, supported and happy as they begin the next stage of their journey through education.

Becky Catlin is a teacher of English and Drama, and the More Able Coordinator at Sir Christopher Hatton Academy. Previously a theatre director and creative learning artist for Edinburgh theatres, Becky loves working with young people, creating environments that challenge them constructively and in which they can thrive. 

Sir Christopher Hatton Academy is an outstanding lead academy in a multi-academy trust in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire. The academy achieved its second accreditation with the NACE Challenge Award in 2015, and is working towards its third.

Free resource for NACE members

For additional guidance and practical ideas to support more able learners during transition from KS2 to 3, log in to our members’ site to access the NACE Essentials case study “Managing successful transition from Key Stage 2 to 3 for more able learners”.

Share good practice to support transition

Join our free member meetup on 8 June to share examples of good practice across the primary-secondary divide. To book your place, click here.
Tuesday, May 8, 2018